3 Ukrainian evacuees join judo event in Japan, meet Olympic gold medalists Wolf, Baker
HIRATSUKA, Kanagawa — Three Ukrainian children evacuated from the Russian invasion of their home country recently traveled to Japan to compete in judo and interacted with Japanese Olympic gold medalists Aaron Wolf and Mashu Baker in this city in eastern Japan on September 28. .
The Polish delegation consisting of six Polish judokas, three Ukrainian evacuees in the country and staff members came to Japan to participate in a judo event organized by Tokai University for junior high school students who is held in Munakata City, Fukuoka Prefecture, western Japan.
They were invited to the university’s Shonan campus in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa prefecture on September 28 and trained with Wolf, 26, a men’s 100 kilogram champion at the Tokyo Olympics, and Baker, 28, gold medalist at 90 kg. division at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016. The Ukrainians said the experience was “amazing” and made them happy.
Tokai University has accepted judoka delegations from Eastern European countries since the Cold War era. An overseas judo training delegation made up of students from the university’s affiliated high school visited Poland in 2019 and continued to interact with that country’s judoka. After the university asked them to participate in the college’s judo meet, a delegation consisting of members selected from judo clubs in the Polish cities of Gdansk and Bytom was formed.
Toru Takeuchi, shihan (master) of the Tokai University Judo Club, asked his former students Wolf and Baker to participate in the event. The visiting children participated in free drills with the two judokas, and they threw themselves on the mat in the campus martial arts gymnasium.
After the practice, the children posed for commemorative photos with two gold medals hanging from their necks, and had their judo books and belts autographed by the Olympic medalists.
Rostyslav Karulyk, 15, who fled Ukraine with his father in February, started practicing martial arts after being captivated by the joy of judo at a local club when he was 6 years old. He apparently won a bout by ippon using a shoulder throw technique in just nine seconds against Japan. He said training here was his dream and he wanted to come back to practice judo in the future. He added that he has no intention of returning to Ukraine as he hates war.
Fellow evacuees Yurii Olijnyk and Kiril Dachutin, both 13, also said they were delighted.
Wolf commented, “I don’t know what kind of experiences they had during the war, but I would be happy if they could cheer up by practicing judo with us.”
Baker said, “I was happy to hear the kids say their dream had come true. They were surprisingly strong and they got me excited.”
(Japanese original by Yuki Motohashi, Hiratsuka local office)