Mongolians were disappointed with the Olympic judo tournament results, but 25-year-old International Sports Master D.Sumiya lifted everyone’s spirits by seizing Mongolia’s first medal from this year’s Olympic Games taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The world’s number one ranking judoka in the women’s 57 kg division, D.Sumiya, won an Olympic silver medal six years after joining the Mongolian national team and became the first female judoka from Mongolia to win an Olympic medal. Journalists were eager to get an exclusive interview with her, but she refused to speak to the press until the final day of the judo tournament. Below are excerpts from interviews with D.Sumiya conducted before she left Brazil for Mongolia.
D.Sumiya was scheduled to arrive at Chinggis Khaan International Airport on August 18, but her flight was delayed by one day. She arrived in Mongolia at 6:00 a.m. on August 19.
You have become the first female judoka from Mongolia to win a medal from the Olympic Games. Not to mention, you are the only judoka to win a medal at Rio 2016. The Mongolian people are giving you plenty of love, compliments and encouragements, in particular the Mongolian Judo Association and Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Sports are very proud of you. How do you feel?
Thank you very much. The judo tournament has ended, and today [August 16] the national judo team is leaving the Olympic village. We will stay at the training base, located 50 kilometers from Rio de Janeiro, for two days before flying back to Mongolia.
It’s true that the Mongolian public had high expectations from judokas. Not only Mongolians, but everyone around the globe expected Mongolia to do well at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. I’d like to underline that though our team won one medal, we had more than one opportunity to win a medal. I was pleased with the fact that Mongolian judokas were competing every day at the Olympics. Mongolian judokas qualified for medals almost every day. We all saw disappointing games with our judokas letting the chance to attain a medal slip from their grasps. It was truly regrettable, especially Mongolian judoka M.Urantsetseg’s match.
Don’t you agree with the saying, “victory is attained by many but a defeat is shouldered by one”?
…I hope the Mongolian public understands that there are times when we win and times when we lose…
It’s difficult to express it in words. Today (August 16) for example, L.Otgonbaatar is staying here to get a shoulder surgery. (Mongolian judoka L.Otgonbaatar received an injury to his left shoulder during the contest for a medal placement in the men’s 90 kg division).
I fell into deep depression in 2014 after losing the contest for a bronze medal at the World Judo Championships. It was very hard for me mentally. I was anxious until I won a bronze medal from the 2015 World Judo Championships, held in Astana, Kazakhstan. I couldn’t accept my defeat for nearly a year. I hope the Mongolian public understands that there are times when we win and times when we lose.
Including the Asian Judo Championships, Asian Festival, World Championships and the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, haven’t you been winning medals from large competitions practically every year since 2013?
Judokas participating in this year’s Olympic Games were trained exceptionally. In my case, I won a bronze from the 2014 Asian Festival, another bronze from the 2015 World Judo Championships, and won gold from the Asian Olympic Qualifier.
You completed in four matches before fighting for a bronze medal. Your opponents were all very strong, with most of them being Olympic and World Championship medalists. Who was the strongest among them?
First, I found out which athletes were competing in my section and then predicted which opponent I would meet in the quarterfinals. In the past, I once lost to the Dutch judoka, whom I faced in the second round. I paid her back this time. Next up was the four-time world silver medalist from Portugal, Telma Monteiro. In the 2014 World Judo Championships, I lost to her at the zonal match, but defeated her at the World Judo Championships last year. Our encounter was inevitable. Our match at the quarterfinal was very close and competitive. She’s a really strong competitor who is skilled in quick and swift attacks, but I won with an awarded penalty of shido.
The following opponent was the famous Japanese judoka, Kaori Matsumoto – 2012 London Olympic champion, and 2010 and 2015 world champion. Mongolians are probably well aware of this judoka.
You seemed surprised when Telma Monteiro received a penalty. Did you not notice her forbidden move?
I didn’t notice so I was very surprised when the judge stopped the match. I didn’t feel much pain as I was completely focused on the match. Before she did the move, I was completely restrained by her but I managed to put my legs over her. Then, she got ahold of my left elbow and put me in an elbow lock. It was painful. Even so my endurance and persistence prevailed. The judges gave her a penalty for it.
Mongolian spectators debated on whether your final match against Brazilian judoka Rafaela Silva was judged correctly. Since you fought against her on the tatami, can you give us the details of that battle?
Rafaela Silva is a strong opponent. She won silver medal from the 2011 World Judo Championships and became world champion in 2013. Of course, everyone would want to fight with everything they got to win the finals. I don’t want to talk about the judging. There were talks about her touching my trousers. I didn’t notice it during the match. While monitoring a video afterwards, I saw that she might’ve grabbed my clothes. Still, this is judo. There’s no assurance that a person will continue to win while others continue to lose. I accept Silva’s victory. We might be opponents inside the arena but we’re still human. I felt bad for her a lot while reading articles about her.
Which athletes did you think would stay in the semifinals? Did you expect yourself to go through the semifinals?
I expected Romania’s Corina Căprioriu and France’s Automne Pavia to qualify for the semifinals from “A” zone. I expected to go against German judoka Miryam Roper from my zone but she was defeated by a Russian judoka.
…Even though a person’s psychology is dependent on their inner strength and the power to control themselves, I thinks it’s correct to have someone that helps you keep control over your mindset, especially during this period with high sports competition and emotional instability…
You reportedly got a personal therapist before the Olympic Games. How has help from a professional therapist impacted you?
I approached a therapist in early 2016. I understood that a therapist is essential. Right after the 2014 World Championships, I considered getting psychological therapy and did meet a therapist but didn’t continue to regularly get therapy. I’ve been receiving therapy this year from therapist N.Zolzaya before departing to Rio de Janeiro. Sports has developed to become a part of science, and countries are developing their sports sectors at the same pace. Now, foreign athletes are paying attention to every detail, starting from their personal dietitian and therapist.
I realized that it’s crucial for athletes to receive psychological help while getting therapy myself. Even though a person’s psychology is dependent on their inner strength and the power to control themselves, I thinks it’s correct to have someone that helps you keep control over your mindset, especially during this period with high sports competition and emotional instability.
How do you focus before an important match?
I listen to music. I listen to all sorts of music – sometimes Mongolian songs or fast-paced music. Before my matches at the Olympic Games, I mainly listened to one particular song. I had it on repeat and listened to it over and over.
What song is that?
S.Javkhlan and B.Bayasgalan’s “Khavriin Nairag” (Spring Poem). I don’t know why but I kept going back on this song. It’s a wonderful song that immediately makes you imagine the countryside with herds of livestock.
Do you dream about getting medals? Have you ever dreamed that you were becoming an Olympic champion?
I can’t remember it very well but there was a time when I burst into tears and wept while talking about medals with my boyfriend (judoka Kh.Tsogtgerel).
Was it about winning an Olympic medal?
Yes. It was quite a long time ago. We were just having a chat but then he told me to imagine that I was becoming an Olympic champion. Right then, I just burst into tears. I was so happy and tears started running down my cheeks at the thought of actually becoming an Olympic champion. I guess I mentally prepared myself through such imagery. /She laughs/
When did you get your own judo kimono?
For two years, I entered youth judo competitions with borrowed judo outfits. I used to beg senior judokas to lend me their judo kimono all the time. I finally got my own judo uniform in 2009 and I was so happy. I bought it for 80,000 MNT from China.
Your father must be feeling over the moon. Was your father proud to see his eldest daughter win a silver medal from the Olympics Games?
I saw my father cry for the first time. My father seems to be very happy. He cried so much that we couldn’t talk on the phone. My father is a very hardworking person. He has a farm at our home town, Baruun Turuu Gol soum in Uvs Province. He always has tons of work to do. I liked his hardworking personality since I was a child. He never gave up. Once he puts his mind onto something, he has to finish it. I grew up looking up to him as my role model. My father is a wonderful person. My parents dedicate everything to their children.
I had my ups and downs like any other athletes. You can’t succeed by sitting idly. I didn’t come this far on my own.
Are your grandparents awaiting your arrival in Ulaanbaatar?
Our folks are probably so high that their feet aren’t touching the ground. I took my grandparents to the Junior World Judo Championships after having them get pension loans and adding some extra cash from my parents’ salaries.
I was probably 17 or 18. My father and I went around many organizations to have my expenses covered but it didn’t work out. Now that I think about it, it was very hard for me to return home back then. I didn’t want to get out of the plane. Now, it’s different. I’ve been able to participate and gain experience from many tournaments with assistance and support from my instructors and the government since joining the national team. I achieved this success thanks to all of this.
I had my ups and downs like any other athletes. You can’t succeed by sitting idly. I didn’t come this far on my own. I’m very thankful to the Head of Military Unit No.0119, Colonel Kh.Lkhagvasuren, who’s been supporting me since I began doing judo. I’m very grateful to coaches of the national team. I was sad that people criticized my coaches after the match. Probably we who are always beside them know how much effort they put into training athletes.
I hope the public can understand their efforts and value their hearts that beat for the national team. We will forever try to repay the efforts of President of the Mongolian Judo Federation Kh.Battulga and everyone in the federation. An athlete’s achievements and the value of their Olympic and World Championship medals are closely linked to President Kh.Battulga. Soon we will return to Mongolia. I will meet everyone with a smile.