Interview with Andrea Stojadinov

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Andrea Stojadinov was born on 20 June 2000 in Pančevo, Serbia. She is in the -48kg weight category in Judo. Andrea captured the U23 European title in Budapest in 2021 and the silver medal at the European Championships in Prague. At the 2018 and 2019 Junior World Championships she won bronze respectively.

Andrea made history in Belgrade in 2016 for being the youngest Senior European Cup winner at the age of 16. Andrea won the bronze medal at the Grand Slam tournaments in Tel Aviv and Tashkent in 2021. She also won bronze at the Budapest Grand Slam in 2020.

  1. How old were you when you got started with Judo, and why Judo?

I officially started when I was four years old. Although, ever since I was two years old my parents would bring me to the Dojo each evening. My brother started judo when I was two, and as our parents were always our biggest supporters in everything, even though I was only two years old, they would never skip my brother’s training sessions. Therefore, they brought me every time with them to watch. 

You could say I learned to walk on tatami. The Dojo is like a second home to me, because ever since I can remember, Judo has been a part of my daily life. 

I fell in love with the sport, and when I was four years old, I was allowed to start officially training. I was much younger than everyone (the youngest kids were around seven years old), but I was already coming for two years and running around without an official status, so the coach let me start even though I was very little and much smaller than the rest of the kids.

Andrea Stojadinov competing

  1. What are your goals for this upcoming Olympic cycle?

I believe that every athlete will have the same answer on this-my plan is to win the Paris 2024 Olympics, and on the road to it, win as much as possible! 

  1. How did you feel when you won your first Grand Slam medal? Tell us more about that day and your fights.

My first Grand Slam medal was in Budapest 2020. It was the first IJF Tour competition after all Covid lockdowns. I had such hard fights, but I was mentally ready. I didn’t expect a medal before the competition, I didn’t even think of it. But as the competition started I just gave it my all in every match and step by step I found myself on the podium.

It was very important to me. I trained hard during lockdown and I wanted to show everyone how much I improved. Also, a few weeks before it, my federation told me I will not fight in the Senior European championship, as I should focus on my age group-juniors and U23 (as it was in only 4-5 days time).

My medal at the Budapest Grand Slam secured my spot to fight at the Senior European Championship, where I made it to the final, and won my most important medal of my whole career. 

  1. Which result would you describe as your most successful so far in your Judo career?

In Serbia, if you train in an Olympic sport, the most important, and highly valuable competitions are European Championships, World Championships and Olympic Games. If you win a medal in one of those events, you have practically set yourself for life.

So with my silver medal at the European Championships in Prague, I secured something like a sports pension, so I made sure that even when I finish my Judo career I will be able to do what I love (which is definitely something connected to Judo), without worrying about my finances.

Also that medal made many institutions in Serbia notice me and take me more seriously, which is also very important, as I am still young and my career will definitely last a lot longer.

Andrea Stojadinov with serbia judo team

  1. What does your training schedule look like? Tell us about how many sessions you have each day and what kind of sessions (weightlifting, fitness, Judo)?

Okay, don’t think of me as crazy, but I do train a lot (at least that’s what people tell me). Monday to Friday it’s usually 3 training sessions-gym in the morning, judo (mostly technical training), and in the afternoon I have judo which is usually randoris.. Saturday is usually 2 training sessions, no randoris.

Sunday is a rest day, but by afternoon I get super bored, so sometimes I go to BJJ or for a run or ride a bike. I’m probably hyperactive, so I can hardly rest for long. Of course this schedule is not constant, depending on which phase of training I’m in, but this is the most common one. Some days I get off from the gym.

  1. You won Gold at the 2021 U23 European Championships and became Vice-Champion at the 2020 Senior European Championships. How do you feel about those achievements? 

Well I believe for the European Championship for seniors I already said way too much haha. As for U23 Europeans last year, I must admit it’s one of my favorite competitions. As I missed the European Championship, World Championship and Olympics last year due to surgery on my shoulder, I had a hard time getting back into shape.

And I wasn’t in shape for U23 Europeans as well. I didn’t do my best judo, I was only ready to do long fights, but my judo wasn’t the best… Also, after many years of training with my brother, and him helping other coaches work with me, and working solo with me, our federation finally let him officially be my coach and go with me to that competition and the competitions after that.

I was super excited to fight both for me and him. To show everyone how valuable he is to me, how much he is responsible for my every achievement over the years, as people never got the chance to see me with him before. It was beautiful. He is my brother, my best friend, my training partner and coach all in one. At U23 I won gold, and got a chance to celebrate it with my favourite person in the world…

I could cry happy tears even now just remembering it. It’s a huge motivation for me now, to have many more moments like this to celebrate with him, because he deserves the world if you ask me. He gave up his Judo career for me, and ever since, he has put more effort in me than he ever has for his own success… I’m really happy to have him.

  1. When you’re not busy with training, what do you enjoy doing?

This is a really difficult question, I like to do everything! I love reading fantasy books, watching movies, series, and anime. I love to spend Sundays snuggled in my own bed just binge watching series and anime. But also sometimes I love to go out with friends, have weekend trips with friends, go to parties. I love playing PC games as well as table top games… It really just depends on my mood. Also I have two dogs-half husky and samoyed, so my free time is often spent with them.

  1. Does anyone else in your family do Judo, or has done Judo? 

My father trained when he was young. But nothing serious. He was more of a football player than a Judoka, and well, neither of the sports were professional for him. But, as you already know by now, my brother started Judo first, and I followed in his steps. Now he is a coach, my coach, and the coach of the little kids in our club- Red Star. 

  1. Have you experienced any setbacks so far in your Judo career? If yes, what were they?

I have, of course. My love for Judo is huge, infinite, but some things were a huge problem for me- the ones I couldn’t fight, that were out of my control. I never doubted my judo career even after experiencing serious injuries, not even last year when I had to go for surgery. But my first huge setback was when I was 16.

My very first coach wasn’t really present anymore. I competed at my first European Championships in 2016 for cadets and he went on vacation just three weeks before that. It was a period when my brother gave up his Judo career to be my training partner and my coach- as I had no one else but him and my family.

But then I won a medal there at the European Championships and it was just sad… sad that my coach didn’t believe in me and didn’t prepare me for that competition, and now took all the credit for it. It would be fine if maybe he woke up after that and made an effort, but it was just lie after lie… a year later I was feeling miserable because there was zero effort from my first coach and club.

Luckily I had support from my federation and national coaches who noticed my potential and didn’t leave me behind. At the end of 2017 things really escalated, a person who was like family to me said some very heavy words.. I didn’t know what to do, he was even threatening my career, and I was only 17, just a kid, I still am… I had luck though, to make the best decision in my career, change clubs, move to the Red Star family who took me in as if I was part of their club since day one.

Ever since 2018 they have been keeping me going and motivating me! Of course there are always some issues happening, setbacks, and miss understandings. I’m already leaving those problems behind, they only make me train harder and more eager to win!

  1. You’re pretty memorable with your different hairstyles and colours. Tell us about it?

Well, two ponytails is traditional now. It was the hairstyle my mother made me for my first competition and every single one after that. Soon enough in Serbia, even though I was little, people knew me by my hairstyle. As I got to cadets my hair was too long for that hairstyle in fights, so I kept making it only for the podium. I must admit, sometimes I feel stupid doing it, silly… but in the end, I would feel even worse if I don’t make it.

It’s who I am since day one, and it just shows how far I’ve come. As for the colour of my hair, as I said, I’m a huge fantasy book and anime lover. In general, I’m a huge kid… I like it, trying colours, experimenting, being silly… After all, it’s just hair… why not play with it while I’m young.. I can always grow it back and go into a natural colour, there’s plenty of time for that! 

  1. Are you studying, working, or are you just training full-time? If yes, what are you studying or what type of work are you doing?

I am a student. I’m actually going to two universities-Faculty of Security Studies and the Faculty of Sports. In both I’m in my third year (out of four). To be honest, I hate studying. I love reading books, but not when I have to… but I know it’s something I must do. In my opinion both education and my sports career is important to me.

Don’t ask me how I find the time, I barely do, I don’t sleep when I’m preparing for my exams, but at the end of the day, I’m happy that I’m showing every young kid who is looking up to me that school is important too! And it’s possible to be great both at school and in sport.

  1. What do you love the most about Judo?

People. For sure. I’ve met so many admirable and amazing people! Some of them are super successful in this sport, some of them are not-but they’re all precious to me either way. I am very friendly and I will talk with everyone, and Judo is just perfect to meet so many different people, to learn so much of the way others are thinking, working, and simply being.

Also another thing I love to do is travel-and hey, we have so much of this in judo! Covid kind of ruined this part a little bit, but it won’t last forever! And when you combine those two things-I get to travel the world with my favourite people, and make the most beautiful memories with them! Nothing beats that.

  1. Do you diet in order to make your weight for competition?

Uh okay, this is something I still have to improve myself on. I love sweets and I really love food, and Serbia has super good and super cheap food-so maintaining a healthy diet is something I still have to work on. If I was more serious about it I probably would weigh between 47-48kg. But, I enjoy food, and I’m not giving it up, so the week before competition I start watching what I eat, I struggle a little as everyone else that’s cutting weight.

I prefer to get my weight in order the day before weigh-in, because on the day of weigh-in I like to rest all day, watch the draw, and prepare tactics for my matches. I don’t like to leave weight cutting for the last day, it’s just too much stress for me and when I’m already preparing to fight I don’t like to think of other stuff other than that.

  1. What do you do the night before competition, and the morning of competition day (in terms of mental preparation, rituals and so on)?

I’m afraid I’m quite boring when it comes to this subject. The night before competition I finish with my weigh-in, I then eat and drink and get to bed. I then chat with my family and friends, watch something on Netflix and go to bed rather early. In the morning I would say, I like to warm up as soon as I get to the competition area, and then even if I have two hours until my first fight I would just play music, talk to people around me, and sit in one place until it’s time to go to Judogi control.

I plan my tactics with my coach when the draw is out, and before my matches we just go through it, but nothing too serious. I like to think of competition as the day we celebrate. I am there because I love judo, because I love what I do, and I will go into a fight to enjoy my time. Of course, there is pressure, but this is the thinking I like to keep in my mind-enjoy judo, it’s the day you do what you love.

  1. Any advice for up and coming Judo athletes?

If I have learnt anything, it’s that anyone can succeed. I don’t have any given talents for the sport. I’m average in height, I cut weight like others, I’m far from the strongest when it comes to strength… but I’m stubborn, I train much more than others and I believe that dedication and training beats talent.

After every loss I hurry back to training and I keep training harder and harder. So the thing that got me my medals? Only hard work… there are no shortcuts-at least for us-average people, by our constitution.

Anastasia-Alexandra Nenova interview with Andrea Stojadinov for Sports Star.

Athlete Andrea Stojadinov, Serbian Judoka in the -48kg weight category.

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Interviewed by Anastasia-Alexandra Nenova

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