Tokyo FinTech
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Tokyo FinTech

The mental toughness of Japan’s Judoka

There are a few dominant Olympic performances we have simply gotten used to in recent times. We could take those competitions out of the crowded program and mail the medals. There are the Korean archers, the Chinese table tennis players (who actually left one gold on the proverbial table this time), and the Italian sprinters…wait, what did these guys have for breakfast again?

While usually performing well, Japan’s Judoka are not necessarily dominant. I counted one gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in London, and three gold medals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. So during the first week of the 2020NE games, it was absolutely stunning to see the line up of champion after champion, resulting in an unprecedented haul of 9 out of 14 individual gold medals, with the highlight for many surely the Abe siblings climbing the Olymp on the second day within barely an hour of each other.

On home soil, with the unavoidable pressure to perform, this medal haul deserves the utmost respect. Maybe the absence of live spectators actually helped taking some of the pressure off. What stuck in my head, though, was that the Japanese Judoko surely seemed strong, but not *that* dominant (on the face of it, quite a few of the bouts were settled during extra time). Once you make it to the semi-finals, the skill level is incredibly high and while saying it becomes a toss-up does not do the performance justice, there is some aspect of that — it takes a little luck as well. So I had to look back at the data to confirm.

Here are the mind-boggling stats:

  • Out of 12 judoka to make it to the semi-finals, 10 actually won them
  • Out of the 10 judoka to make it to the finals, 9 actually won them
  • Out of the 9 judoka to win the finals, 6 actually did so by “Golden Score”, i.e. during additional time, where the first score wins

That is just u-n-b-e-l-i-e-v-a-b-l-e. Mental toughness for sure.

Congratulations, Japan!

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Norbert Gehrke

Norbert Gehrke

Passionate about strategy & innovation across Asia. At home in Japan. Connector of people & ideas.

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