A few weeks ago, Gabriela Sabau, IJF official photographers, went to the training camp of the Romanian judo team and followed them for several days: a good occasion to discover the work of Florin Bercean, the national coach of Romania and the “behind the scene” pictures of Gabriela.
“I spent three days in a judo training camp, in Poiana Brasov, with the Romanian national female judo team and their coach, Florin Bercean, awarded in 2008 and 2010 with the best coach in Europe award. Corina Caprioriu, silver medalist at the 2012 London Olympics, Andreea Chitu, European champion in 2012 and their colleagues, were all present during the training camp. My idea was to discover how champion’s lives look like, and I wanted to feel their emotions, to see how they "build" medals, how they spend their free time and how the coach manages to deal with girls with very strong personalities.
During my stay, trainings consisted in running through the forest, strength training sessions, flexibility workouts, and judo practice on the mat of course.
Florin Bercean is frequently presented in the Romanian media as the "talent shaper", the "manufacturer of medals" or the "lord of the rings" referring to his prize list as the female coach during the past Olympic Games (since 2000): Simona Richter, bronze medal at the Sydney Olympics 2000, Alina Dumitru, gold at Beijing Olympics 2008 and silver in London 2012, Corina Caprioriu, silver medalist at the Olympic Games in London 2012.
But the list of medals won by his students is not limited to the Olympic games. With more than 800 titles and medals over the years both in national competitions as well as on the occasion of international events, Florin Bercean is definitely one of the best coaches in the world.
After finishing competing, Simona Richter, bronze medalist at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, became the national team assistant coach. Working closely with Florin Bercean, she said: ‘he is living every fight on the tatami like its own fight.’ Listening to her, it is obvious that she has still a lot of admiration for the man who brought her on the Olympic podium and is now her colleague.
In the training room a particular atmosphere is palpable and the staff is attentive to every details. Performance can be achieved through work, sacrifice, dedication and a necessarily discipline! Like in every large group like the Romanian national team, there must be leaders. After the retirement of Alina Dumitru, Corina Caprioriu and Andreea Chitu remained in the group and are definitely the today’s leaders. Corina has a very strong personality and she is very stubborn by nature, honest, polite and very determined to defeat any fighter who comes along on the tatami.
Very serious and focused in training, she is sometimes disturbed by her teammates behavior, but “whatever happens during the training sessions, once the judo is over, everything is forgotten.
Both Corina and Andreea are considered as stars in Romanian judo, but they have managed to keep their seriousness and modesty like great champions. In their free time they prefer to go shopping, or just to walk through the city and relax.
I accompanied Andreea Chitu on a walk in Brasov, and managed to discover a very happy, in love, always jocking but very determined young lady to become a great champion! When I asked her if there is any judoka in her weight category who she is afraid of, her answer was clear: "no! Every time I step on the mat, it is to win and not to lose!”
You can see in her eyes the desire to go far, to reach her goals and to make history in Romanian sports. As sensitive as she is when she talks about ordinary moments in her daily life, as determined she is when she is competing.
All the girls impressed me a lot! They smile, make jokes during training, but sometimes they cry because of injury or because of inability to correctly execute a training process. When it happens they gather their forces, go beyond and take it over, and do it over again until they succeed to execute everything perfectly! This is how a champion is “built”.
Along with the girls, I discover a young visually impaired judoka who was training under the guidance of Mrs. Gianina Inclezan. There is an ongoing judo program, in the center in Cluj, for young visually impaired athletes. The training room has been arranged with donations and those in charge of the program hope to “build” young champions for the next Paralympics Games.
Days spent with judo female national team of Romania and its coaches, increased my desire to know much more about what judo means. I learned that a medal is never won without a lot of work and sacrifice, and behind of a champion, there is always a story worth discovering!
Text and images: Gabriela Sabau, IJF Official photographer