Daria Bilodid, itinerary of a Ukrainian judoka forced into exile

Trying to forget the noise of the bombs, the streets of exile and the friends left in their country. 3.167 km from Kiev, Daria Bilodid made Spanish tatamis his refuge and his new beginning. P.laugh in thein war which pits Ukraine against Russia, Ldouble world champion of -48 kg took refuge in Valence to continue her training. With her steely blue gaze, the 21-year-old Ukrainian dreamed of a second continental coronation on Friday 29 April during the European Championships in Sofia (Bulgaria), despite a chaotic preparation and two category changes. About her His way of fighting for her country.

With half a million followers, Daria Bilodid is a real star in her country and documents, on social networks, her life as a top athlete in the four corners of the globe. But dnow, it is the mobilization requests that the champion transmits on her instagram page. Daria’s family lost everything overnight with the war, it was very hard “, this is testified by the French judokate Automne Pavia, bronze medalist in London in 2012 and close to the young Ukrainian. “Despite everything that is happening, she finds the strength to train and go to a European championship. Also, changing category! Many would have skipped her, she is a warrior with a steel mentality.”

Born in Kiev, Daria Bilodid is a pure product of Ukrainian judo. Her father, Gennadiy Bilodid, was a bronze medalist at the world championships and a two-time European champion. Her mother, Svetlana Kuznetsova, is also a judoka and coach of the Ukrainian women’s cadet team. If rhythmic gymnastics tempts young Bilodid for a while, judo wins her over immediately. She has directed her Spartak kyiv from the age of 6 where her parents train him. “Daria is very familiar, she is really very nice. But, on the mat, she is a real fighter. She really has two personalities”, Autumn Pavia highlights.

“She came to see me telling me that when she was little she was a fan of mine! But she became an immense champion! Since then we have been in contact with the French, she is very happy with the French, she stays with us a lot, she is a super nice girl”.

Autumn Pavia, triple European champion in -57kg

to franceinfo: sport

A precocious champion, the young woman stands out for her slim figure (1m72), very atypical in judo. She won the Paris tournament in 2018 and then achieved her feat by winning her first world title at 16, becoming the youngest world champion in the sport.

Daria Bilodid in March 2020, with the France team.  (Daria Bilodid)

“Her strength is her height, but she uses her resources very well in technical terms. She has an incredible o-ochi, crazy sankaku. She is very aggressive and raises her arm violently. She knows how to exploit her height.” Pavia Autumn Analysis. TO By way of comparison, the Olympic champion in her category is 7 centimeters shorter than her. Off the mats, the judoka multiplies magazine covers as a model.

Despite a bronze medal far from satisfying her in Tokyo, the young woman has forged a solid record in the world judo scene.

But at dawn on February 24, his daily life is shattered. A loud noise wakes her up. The dreaded scenario of a Russian invasion has come true and war is coming. A new battle is coming. The family quickly packs their bags, slips a kimono into the trunk of the car, amidst canned food and clothes, then heads for exile.

Uzhhorod direction, on the western border of Ukraine. For 5 days, Daria Bilodid helps refugees from the east with her friends, bringing them support, food and dry clothes. The children and women then arrive in the tides. But the conflict is bogged down and Daria Bilodid realizes that she will not be able to stay in Ukraine indefinitely. “She stayed at the beginning, we were in touch. She didn’t want to leave even though she talked about how difficult it was.”adds Autumn Pavia.

“After five days there, I started to realize that I couldn’t stay. Physically I couldn’t do anything. I was sinking into a state of depression. I needed to be able to act, this is my judo mentality that took over. “,

Daria Bilodid, 2017 European champion and 2018 and 2019 world champion in -48kg

Judo of the European Union

The young woman then decided to travel to Valence, Spain, with her mother and grandmother. A long journey of 3,400 km, through Slovenia, Italy, France and Spain. “She was welcomed with her family by a training center in Valencia along with other Ukrainians. She is training hard there. Sugoi Uriarte and Laura Gomez, two former internationals, help him a lot in his daily life. It’s a bit like his new family, his new life. ” says Autumn Pavia. The young Ukrainian wants to resume the course of her life, she gradually gets used to the mild air of Spain, now she is learning Spanish, but not odo not forget its origins. Three months after the conflict began, he shows up in Sofia in a blue and yellow kimono.

On the mat, Daria Bilodid has her face closed, Friday 30 April. Russian and Belarusian athletes, banned from international competitions in response to the invasion of Ukraine, can still compete under the flag of the International Judo Federation in Sofia. Eyes on her target, Daria Bilodid stays focused. The challenge is great. If her preparation was interrupted by the war, Ukraine has deployed two categories above her usual weight of -57 kg. A leap rarely seen to such a high level.

“VSIt will do him good physically and mentally to stop the diet. When you go up two categories it’s because you hurt yourself a lot to be there “explains Autumn Pavia, triple European champion in the -57kg category. “Daria remains very high in this category and will find her orientation. After judo they are different. In -48kg she moves much more than in -57kg, where girls are more physical. (…) Some need a adaptation time but knowing Daria: she trains hard, she has a great mind “.

Priscilla Gneto (in white) takes down Daria Bilodid in the second round of the European Championship in Sofia, April 29, 2022. (NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV / AFP)

Beaten by the French Priscilla Gneto, Daria Bilodid saw her career coming to an end. But her victory is already that of having concluded this long journey, which will take him from Kyiv to Sofia.

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