2020 Tokyo Olympics: Judo Athlete Defends Coach for Face Slapping Pre-Game Ritual

by Amy Myers

While all the 2020 Tokyo Olympics athletes might have their pre-competition rituals, the one between German judo star Martyna Trajdos and her coach caught a lot of attention–and not in the way she hoped.

For individual sports like swimming or running, surely the athletes have a motivational, mood-boosting playlist to help pump them up. Maybe for team sports like soccer or volleyball, the teams have a chant or warm-up that they do. But for more combative sports like judo, some athletes need a little more… aggressive motivation. And for Trajdos, that’s exactly what she asked of her coach, Claudiu Pusa.

Before Trajdos’ match with Hungarian Szofi Ozbas in the women’s 63kg elimination round, Pusa grabbed the 34-year-old athlete by the collar, shook her and slapped her on both cheeks. Trajdos–who’s probably done that for all of her competitions–nodded nonchalantly at him and then headed into the ring.

2020 Tokyo Olympics Athlete Says She Chose the Pre-Game Ritual

Although Trajdos lost the match against Ozbas in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, she and her coach still made headlines because of the pre-competition ritual. Shortly after, Twitter blew up with reactions of the coach and athlete’s interaction.

“What a horrendous example to set for how men should treat women, especially given how many young sports fan watch the #Olympics hoping to one day be there themselves. This is televised violence, the only amazing thing about it is that it’s permissible,” one user wrote.

Another said, “can’t see the logic behind it! Scienctifically & emotionaly that is damaging Hope he’d come up with a better idea next time.”

After seeing all the backlash the ritual caused her coach, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics athlete took to Instagram to defend him.

“Look’s like this was not hard enough!” Trajdos wrote in response to comments on the slapping, “I wish I could have made a different headline today.”

Trajdos then proceeded to assure concerned viewers that she chose and consented to the pre-competition ritual.

“My coach is just doing what I want him to do to fire me up!”

However, the International Judo Federation still didn’t approve of the behavior–consent or not. In a tweet, the IJF responded to the incident.

“The IJF addressed a serious official warning towards the German coach, concerning the bad behaviour he showed during the competition. Judo is an educational sport and as such cannot tolerate such behaviour, which goes against the judo moral code. #respect,” the Federation wrote.

And while some Twitter users agreed with the IJF, others sided with Trajdos and her coach, including former Olympian and judoka, Dennis Vandergeest.

“Who cares what people think. We are doing a combat sport and if this helps you 🔥,” he wrote on her Instagram post.