Two-time European judo champion and world silver medallist Sergei Aschwanden is hoping lightning won’t strike twice when he sets foot on the tatami mat in Athens.
Four years ago in Sydney, the Swiss medal hope was eliminated in the first round of the competition.
But Aschwanden, who is competing in the under-81kg category at the Games, insists he has put the past behind him and now has a medal-winning performance up his sleeve.
The judoka is convinced that – like Swiss fencer Marcel Fischer – he has the potential to climb to the highest step of the Olympic podium.
Although one of the favourites, Aschwanden knows from bitter experience that nothing is guaranteed.
In Sydney he fell at the first hurdle, and he narrowly missed out on gold in the final of the World Judo Championships in Osaka, Japan, in September 2003.
Aschwanden has left nothing to chance this time around, totally immersing himself in an intensive training regime under the guidance of national coach Leo Held.
swissinfo: What do these Olympics mean for you?
Sergei Aschwanden: The Olympic Games are a dream for many people. As for me, they are a problem I face and have to deal with. I am approaching them in a very rational manner.
It’s a competition that only takes place once every four years. But there are so many different elements surrounding this event, such as pressure from the media, my immediate entourage and my friends.
In addition, you only get the best athletes competing at the Olympic Games. In this extreme situation, all you can do is give 100 per cent.
I have good memories of Sydney, despite my first-round defeat. Thanks to that, I have since strung together some good results. It helped me mature.
swissinfo: You are regularly mentioned among the medal hopefuls in Athens. Would anything less than a gold be a failure?
S.A.: I have always said that my objective is to win a medal, but I’m not necessarily thinking about gold. If it has to be silver or bronze, that would be a big achievement. Gold would be the icing on the cake.
swissinfo: During your preparations for the Games, you have pretty much shut yourself away…
S.A.: I decided to shut myself off from everything, because I had a very intensive training programme. This regime also included significant rest periods to enable me to continue training at the same level of intensity.
Right now, I have reached the end of my preparations. Training sessions are now just a way of killing time. Everything is pretty much in place. All I need to do now is lose a final kilo to be in perfect shape. At least I hope so!
swissinfo, Mathias Froidevaux and Raphael Donzel
Trophy cabinet :
Eight-time Swiss champion between 1993 and 2003.
European Champion 2000 and 2003.
Bronze medal World Championships 2001.
Silver medal World Championships 2003.
Switzerland is sending only two judokas to the Olympic Games: Sergei Aschwanden in the men’s (under-81kg category) and Lena Göldi in the women’s (under-57kg category).
If Aschwanden wins gold, silver or bronze in Athens, he will become the first Swiss judoka to have won a medal at all the major championships.
Four years ago in Sydney, he was knocked out in the first round.
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