16-year old Viljar Lipard, who reached the medal matches in the under-21 European championships in early-November, said he is dreaming of Olympic gold. His coaches say there is plenty of potential as long as the young man remains focused.
Lipard was supposed to participate in Riga, Latvia, for the under-18 judo European championships, but the competitions were canceled due to the coronavirus. Preparations were already done however, so his coaches decided to register the young Estonian for the under-21 European championships in Poreci, Croatia, instead. Lipard said he did not feel any stress because of the sudden change in plans.
The judoka told ERR: "Actually it took all the nerves away, I did not have to show anything. Everyone knows and understands that I was the youngest there."
Lipard defeated three opponents and reached the bronze medal match, where he had to admit defeat to a former junior world champion. "The opponent was very strong and I certainly wanted to win. If you think about losing, you just cannot wrestle. But yes, it went this way this time," he said.
The promising judoka's coaches said they were not suprised by his performances. Lipard started in judo when he was four years old and his coach Aavo Põhjala said the young wrestler has been on the brink for a few years now, already holding a bronze medal from the European Youth Olympics Festival.
Põhjala said: "I hoped and believed he would finish in the first eight and that is exactly how it went. A medal would have probably been mystical, he would have had to be extremely lucky to get one. Let's say it was the maximum from this competition for him."
The coach added that the young judoka has all the prerequisites to make it to the top, but there is a lot of work still to be done. Lipard's positive traits might end up being somewhat of an obstacle for the 16-year old, however.
Põhjala said: "He does not fear anyone. No matter who he is wrestling. And on the other hand, it is somewhat of an obstacle, that he takes everyone as 'Oh, I will go and beat them,' and ends up unfocused for some matches. There is actually a lot of work to be done."
Where does Lipard see himself ending up? "The Olympics, of course, an olympic medal. And it would be great if it was gold. The first gold for Estonia. I have to work really hard for that," the promising judoka said.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste