Daria Mezhetskaia won the European title last year, but Judo for women in Russia has never been easy. There’s lots of things Mezhetskaia wants to improve. She gave interview to the popular media Judo Inside.
You have a very distinctive and powerful style of judo. Some even comment that you fight like a man. I’m sure they mean that in a positive sense. But how did this style come about?
I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s because I like men’s judo very much. But I can’t say that I try to acquire their style intentionally. I just watch their fights because I enjoy it. So, their style of fighting rubbed off on me, it’s at a subconscious level.
What’s your favorite throw: uchimata, sode-tsurikomi-goshi or something else?
I enjoy foot-sweeps the most — de-ashi-barai and okuri-ashi-barai — because performing them requires precisions. You have to catch them at exactly the right moment.
How do you train for that?
Honestly, my ashiwaza is not so good during training. They are much better during competitions. I don’t know why. I guess timing is something that can’t be forced.
Can you tell us a bit about your coaches?
Ezio Gamba is the head coach of the Russian team and he has helped me a lot. My direct supervisor is Sirazhudin Magomedov, himself a European champion, twice in fact. He helps me a lot during training and we speak a lot about the mistakes I make in competitions. He knows how to motivate me, sometimes with a praise and sometimes with some scolding. The other coach I work with is Jean-Pierre Gibert, who is a newaza expert. He is amazingly skillful but also a great motivator.
You also do some work with former top player, Irina Zabludina?
Yes, she is my mentor and she has taught me a lot of “secrets” of judo. She’s been to the Olympics twice already and the lessons she’s shared with me motivates me very much. When I was younger, I looked up to her as I trained with her but I knew that one day, I would replace her as we are in the same weight class.