Turin judoka Manuel Lombardo: «I want gold in Paris»

Of Timothy Ormezzano

The blue champion, twice world silver: «The 5th Olympic place in Tokyo? I’ve dreamed all my life of winning on that tatami.” Star on TikTok with his girlfriend and colleague Martina: «We like to carve out a few minutes to create spontaneous and I think amusing clips»

The phenomenal Turin judoka Manuel Lombardo between disappointments and ambitions. The second world silver, conquered two weeks ago in Doha, left the Akiyama athlete a little bitter Seventh, as did the fifth place at the Tokyo 2021 Games. But also a lot of awareness in view of Paris 2024. « All my life I dreamed of winning the Olympic gold on the most important Japanese tatami in the world (the Nippon Budōkan; ed). Now I think only of the city of the Eiffel Tower». Manuel, 24 years old, in addition to being a force of nature, is a positive and pleasantly simple boy. To say, his favorite dinner is «going to Pizza Speedy, takeaway only, under my house in via Chiesa della Salute». No, his success hasn’t changed him one bit. «I haven’t indulged in many whims, apart from a few nice holidays: last year I went to Sicily with my fiancée Martina, my parents’ land, this summer we’re going to Iceland. My earnings? If one takes up judo to make a lot of money, one can also give up».

One step away from the dream. Another World Championship silver: in Doha in the 73 kg as in Budapest 2021 in the 66 kg.
«You get used to everything, even losing the fourth consecutive final. The second World Championship silver leaves a bad taste in the mouth, especially for the way it arrived. It’s a déjà vu of what happened to me in my first bronze medal match at the Tokyo 2019 World Cup.”

The Var was decisive, at the golden score: its projection could have cost the Swiss Stump gold.
«Last year it would have been waza-ari and therefore I would have won. Now you can no longer touch the tatami with your head to defend yourself or throw your opponent, but I only touched him after the throw. Matter of thousandths of a second. The Var was reviewing the images to assign me the decisive point, then a somewhat disconcerting judgment arrived ».

An Italian judoka has never won the world title. A curse?
“It was my day, I was fine. I pick it up and take it home, knowing I’m only 24 and have a good percentage of finals reached. The world silver also gave me a lot of points in Olympic perspective. There’s nothing else to do but keep working.”

Also because Paris 2024 is getting closer and closer.
«And the path is completely different from the one for Tokyo 2021. How much effort I put in to stay in the 66 kg category: if I had won gold in Japan I would have retired, I couldn’t take that life anymore. Going down to 73 kg was fundamental, there was no alternative: this is my weight. I am now at my full potential. And I don’t have that terrible feeling of losing weight».

Do you want to bring another Olympic gold to Settimo Torinese’s Akiyama, after the one won by Fabio Basile in Rio 2014?
«It’s my dream, the one I work for every day. Fabio and I are not only united by judo, when we can we have fun together. We have a fantastic relationship.”

Would you also like to repeat Basile’s exploits in “Dancing with the Stars”? «I’m an athlete, for now I only think about the races. I don’t know yet if I’ll go to the Masters in Budapest in August, I can’t know if I’ll give myself to the talent shows too. If so, I hope it happens after many more years of judo.”

Judo is the art of compliance, a close relative of the celebrated resilience. Does it mean to bend without breaking?
«If it were a sport solely based on strength, the weightlifters would win. Judo is instinct. You have to use your opponent’s strength against him. An example? The projection that cost me the gold at the recent World Cup: I found the space to uproot my opponent, with little strength and a lot of dynamism. Another example is Fabio (Basile; ed), pure inspiration, timing and technique. If he pinches you with De Ashi Barai, the sweep of the foot, you’re screwed».

You proselytize on TikTok, with your judoka girlfriend Martina Castagnola.
«We like to carve out a few minutes to create spontaneous and I think amusing clips. If we were able to bring even just one kid closer to judo then it would be a great result».

Two hearts and a tatami, don’t you risk judo indigestion?
«No, on the contrary, sharing the same job helps us a lot. Martina makes my own sacrifices, between training and travelling. It would be difficult to explain my life to someone outside this world. With her, however, there is no need to say anything. Total support and sharing».

Between kimono and slightly almond-shaped eyes, you both look like something out of a manga.
«A lot of people tell us… (laughs; ed) Martina’s aunts, when I met them, asked me if I was Chinese. I’m from Turin, she’s Ligurian from Riva Trigoso, but she wouldn’t surprise us to have a son with somewhat oriental features ».

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May 23, 2023 ( edit May 23, 2023 | 6:43 pm)


2023-05-23 16:14:49
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