Olympic Dreams: an extensive training and educational camp in Japan – the dream of young Ukrainian judokas has come true
The seventh camp of the Olympic Dreams International sports camp project exceeded all expectations in terms of its richness of events. During this time, young judokas from Ukrainian cities affected by the war fully realised their dream – they visited Japan, the homeland of judo, where they conducted intensive training and participated in cultural events. The visit of Ukrainian athletes ended with a solemn event with the participation of the Embassy of Ukraine in Japan, the All Japan Judo Federation, the president of the Kodokan – the legendary judo institute, the leadership of Japanese sports organisations and other distinguished guests.
"Now, when Ukraine is going through difficult times, the Olympic Dreams project deserves comprehensive support," emphasised the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine, Sergiy Korsunsky. – I used to practise judo, and I know how important it is to maintain the continuity of training despite all circumstances. Therefore, we sincerely welcome the mission carried out by the Olympic Dreams project – the preservation and development of the Ukrainian Olympic reserve, and are glad to join the project by taking on the logistics of the athletes."
Left to right in the photo: Oleksandra Starkova, Sergiy Korsunsky, Oleksandra Novikova
The Japanese side organised an intensive program for the judokas from Ukraine. The Olympic Dreams project participants had the opportunity to learn all the secrets of judo from Japan's best coaches and Olympic champions. The best Japanese judo masters, with the support of the All Japan Judo Federation, Kodokan Judo Institute, JUDOs, Tokai University Shizuoka Shoyo High School, Shizuoka Gakuen High School, and Shutoku High School offered young Ukrainians exclusive master classes, randori and cultural events.
Ukrainian judokas attended various master classes from Olympic judo champion in Rio de Janeiro 2016, Mashu Baker, Olympic judo champion in Atlanta 1996 and world champion in 1997, Kenzo Nakamura, the Newaza (Ground technique) specialist. For the referee class, the bronze medalist of the Olympic Games in Seoul 1988, Akinobu Osako gave an extraordinary lecture. Athletes Commission members of All Japan Judo Federation also showed at the Judo sessions and shared their exquisite techniques: Misato Nakamura - three-time world champion (2009, 2011, 2015) and bronze medalist of the 2008 and 2016 Olympic Games; Hisayoshi Harasawa – silver medalist of the 2016 Olympic Games; Ryunosuke Haga - bronze medalist of the 2016 Olympic Games and world champion of 2015, and Ono Yoko - silver medalist of the World Judo Championship 2021.
"We sought to acquaint Ukrainian athletes not only with judo technique but also with the Japanese spirit and values. We are glad that we could convey a piece of the Japanese soul. We sincerely invite you to visit our country again," Shinichi Nakamura, president of the All Japan Judo Federation, invited Ukrainian judokas.
Left to right in the photo: Oleksandra Starkova, Oleksandra Novikova, Shinichi Nakamura
The World Champion, the Olympic Champion and the Champion of Japan in the open category, the president of the Kodokan Judo Institute, Haruki Uemura, emphasised that the doors of the first judo school in the world – the Kodokan Institute – are open to Ukrainian athletes. "We are always happy to support you and add to the traditions and philosophy of "learning the way", which is judo," he emphasised.
"Starting the Olympic Dreams project in the spring of 2022, we did not even imagine that in 2 years we would find ourselves in Japan," noted the project's initiator, philanthropist Anatoliy Boyko. – We are happy that our athletes now have the opportunity not only to train in safe conditions but also to gain invaluable experience for future victories. We do not rest on our laurels and continue to support and develop the Olympic reserve of Ukraine."
At a solemn ceremony at the Embassy of Ukraine, the Olympic Dreams project team conveyed personal thanks to all Japanese partners from the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Ukraine, the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine, the Judo Federation of Ukraine, the Kyiv Regional Branch of the NOC of Ukraine, the Mayor of Irpin, and "The Future for Children" Charitable Foundation.
Being in different countries, the participants of the Olympic Dreams project carry the Ukrainian cultural code with them, introducing the International community to the works of art, national traditions, songs and dances of Ukraine. This time, they brought an extensive collection of Ukrainian books from the publishing house "Knygolav" to Japan to replenish the embassy's library. Ukrainian songs were played, and folk dances were performed in every place the project participants visited. At the final event on the last day of their stay, the children staged a show of the author's embroideries of THE SVOE brand.
The Olympic Dreams project also contributed to the cultural exchange between the youth of Ukraine and Japan. During their stay, the project participants had the opportunity to learn more about Japanese culture and traditions, visit the Japan Olympic Museum and the museum of the Kodokan Institute, learn the secrets of the tea ceremony, and also attend tournaments not only Judo but of such popular sports in Japan as sumo, baseball and rugby. Ukrainian athletes and their Japanese friends took part in an environmental campaign – cleaning the beach near Tokai University Shizuoka Shoyo High School. This beach is located next to the "Miho pine forest", part of Japan's UNESCO World Heritage Site, the centre of which is Mount Fuji.
The Japanese dream of Ukrainian judokas would not have come true without the coordinated work of the team, in particular Anatoliy Boyko, Oleksandra Novikova, Karen Balayan and Oleksandra Starkova, who at all stages of the preparation and implementation of the project devoted themselves to its performance around the clock and built a strong bridge of communication with Japan. The work of the Olympic Dreams team was awarded with diplomas from the Embassy of Ukraine in Japan.
We will remind you that the project of international sports camps, Olympic Dreams, has been implemented by "The Future for Children" Charity Fund for over a year and a half. During this time, the format of sports camps was successfully implemented in 6 countries: in the spring of 2022 – in Israel, in the summer of 2022 in Greece, in the winter and spring of 2023 – on the territory of the Republic of Cyprus, in the summer of 2023 – in Spain, in the fall of 2023 – in Slovakia and Japan. The project is consistently supported by the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Ukraine, the NOC of Ukraine of the Kyiv region, the Judo Federation of Ukraine, the city council of Irpin and several embassies of the host countries.
Photos by Kaoru Kure, Olena Kushnarova