Martti Puumalainen describes his opponent in the EC judo final as unimaginably strong. He knew that he would win the European Championship in extra time.
Judoka Martti Puumalainen won the European Heavyweight Championship on Sunday night in Montpellier, France. In the final match, he beat Georgia Guram Tushishvilin in overtime.
– It was probably the most difficult match of my career. It felt that the Georgian is so unimaginably strong. I began to freeze before their powers and was defeated. Then somewhere another gear was found, maybe from when there were Finns cheering, Puumalainen describes to Urheilu.
He says that in the beginning he couldn’t get the Georgian to throw him in any way. Having equalized, Puumalainen knew that the opponent was tired enough. In overtime, he thought: “It’s now or never.”
– When the second point came in overtime, I didn’t think I had scored a point and I took the tie just to be sure. Still, I thought that that point would still be taken away from me, but it just stayed that way.
Puumalainen won the judo Masters competition in Hungary in August. He states that that victory was easier to handle than the EC gold.
– I am the European champion. It’s different in that way… hard to describe. And when it has been expected, which Finn will bring that prize medal. It was 30 years ago and it was me who brought it. It’s quite an honor to be that.
Finland’s previous competition medal for adults is from the 1993 European Championships. Then Jorma Korhonen competed for EC bronze in the 71-kilogram weight class. Finland on the side of para sports Jani Kallunki has won two European Championship golds in 2007 and 2009, European Championship silver in 2005 and European Championship bronze in 2013 as well as World Championship bronze in 2006, Kallunki received Paralympic bronze in 2004 and 2008.
The successes of the Finns encouraged
Puumalainen says he was surprised when the EC tournament started so well. The matches felt easy right from the morning.
– When I reached the final, I knew that my life was in order. But in this sport, you never know the outcome until the clock strikes zero or the referee stops the match in overtime. Yes, it had to be measured.
He says that the day was made easier by the successes of other Finns. For example Luukas Sahan success in the 66-kilogram category created faith, says Puumalainen.
– Luukas was seventh. He was the first man in 20 years in the top eight, there have been women. When I saw that the others were playing well, I knew I was in good shape because we’ve had the same preparation. I want to thank the whole team for the championship.
There is a high probability that Puumalainen will make it to the Paris Olympics next summer.
– To be honest, I can’t think about the Paris Games right now. Let’s celebrate this day and then think about Paris closer, Puumalainen states.