Bronze medallist Metka Lobnik (Slovenia) credits the sport with transforming her body image and earning the respect of her peers and elders.
As a shy child growing up in Maribor, northern Slovenia, Metka Lobnik longed to be like the other girls at school. Slovenia is known for its team sports, and girls are encouraged to play basketball and handball in summer, and ice hockey in winter. But lacking the height and physical prowess of her classmates, Lobnik felt she never quite fitted in - until judo came to the rescue.
“I was just nine or maybe 10 at the time, but I wasn’t very confident in myself,” said Lobnik, who won a bronze medal at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games in the women’s -78kg category, beating Ester Svobodova (Czech Republic).
“I was chubby and I wasn’t good at any of the sports the other girls played because I was short and I had little legs, so I couldn’t run as fast as them. Because of that I wasn’t very sociable.”
Then one day Lobnik heard about a talk in school, promoting judo classes at a local club. She decided to join, mainly in the hope that it would help her make new friends.
I quickly fell in love with it, and judo changed everything for me. Not just my weight, but how I saw myselfMetka Lobnik
“I was hoping it would allow me to do some sport, to improve my physical condition and also to try and socialise more. There were many reasons why I started, but I quickly fell in love with it, and judo changed everything for me. Not just my weight, but how I saw myself.”
Lobnik said her classmates were “a bit shocked at first” that she had chosen judo. “When you hear the words judo and fighting, your first thoughts are to think of boys. A girl doing something like this is not that common in Slovenia.”
She is convinced that the sport not only changed the way she perceived herself, but how others saw her. “It gives you respect,” she said. “Particularly older people - like parents, teachers - when they know you do judo, they know that you’re independent and confident, and that they can rely on you and trust you. Because judo is not just a sport, it teaches you about many things. What you do in judo, you should do in life. You should fight, respect, work, and you should meet your limits and push to go over them.”
Germany’s Raffaela Igl won gold in the -78kg category, defeating silver medallist Margarita Gritsenko (KAZ), while Bekarys Saduakas (KAZ) won gold in the men’s -100kg category, beating Ilia Sulamanidze (GEO). The bronze medal went to Zsombor Veg, of Hungary.