Long months without competing and the difficulty of stepping back on a 'tatami', accentuated by an injury, precipitated Jorge Fernandes' decision to fix the 'judogi' for good and leave judo behind.
“I don't know the right moment when I decided, but the Europeans of Prague failed [em novembro]. It was a consequence of several reasons and I felt, especially after the first confinement, that it was falling short ”, justified the ex-judoka, in an interview with the Lusa agency.
At the age of 31, Jorge Fernandes, accustomed to national and international competitions, saw the covid-19 pandemic anticipate the end of his sports career, without a farewell at home and when Portugal receives the Europeans in April.
“The postponement of the Olympic Games made everything clearer. And, to ‘help the party’, I felt that I had lost a lot, with the confinement. It is difficult to work on the judo component, without doing judo ”, he explained.
For Jorge Fernandes, the stop between March of last year and the resumption of some activity in June, with the stages of the selections, weighed on the difficulty of recovering physically, since his is a form of contact.
“It is not to take credit for the other sports, but perhaps it is easier to work on some components in athletics. The issue of lack of contact was very complicated, there were fears, even from the athletes themselves ”, he admitted.
Then there was an injury and, even with the Europeans from Lisbon a few months away, in April, the farewell took shape.
“I would like [de sair nos Europeus], but there are other athletes who have results as good or better. I didn't want to be a number anymore. I always thought that the day I decided to stop was really to stop, and not have any advances and setbacks ”, he added.
The judoka's farewell coincides with the stoppage of Nuno Saraiva, a judoka of the same weight category (-73 kg), who competed in the Rio2016 Olympic Games.
“He was a direct opponent in my category, we are friends, but the departure of one is not related to the stoppage of another”, said Jorge Fernandes, who in the national teams often coincided with Nuno Saraiva.
With the decision made, it is time to look to the future, radically different from a life in judo and when professional opportunities are still scarce for a sportsman, with a degree in Sports Science and a postgraduate degree in Sports Management.
Of medium weight, the ex-judoka grabbed the professional opportunity that came to him, in a very different area, that of maneuvering heavy machinery in earthmoving, far above the 'weight' he got used to as an athlete.
“The work is linked to one of the largest cement companies in the country. The opportunity arose after many refusals. Either because he was 30 years old or because he was connected to sport ”, he stressed, explaining that it is a problem that many athletes face.
Jorge Fernandes considers that a professional exit is often ‘hampered’ due to the difficulty of the private business sector to accept active athletes, making the company that normally faces the situation “rare”.
"Whenever I sent the curriculum, the obstacle was being connected to sport, it was a reality that I struggled with," revealed the ex-judoka, who says he was well received in the sector in which he now finds himself and which he even likes.
The possibility of becoming connected to judo and academic training is not, however, ruled out, but Jorge Fernandes now faces the sport, which he has always done, in a different perspective.
“It is the area where I specialized, all the training I did was in judo and I think I have the knowledge to transmit, but I also like to work where I am and I was very well received”, he defended.
In judo, he continues to maintain the link to the district association and the club in Coimbra, and trains judoka Djibril Iafa, from the adapted judo variant, one of the athletes in the qualification for the Paralympic Games.
The competition is behind, in a course that brought him some results, in which he highlights the podium climb at the European Games in Minsk, in 2019, with Portugal as the European vice-champion of mixed teams.
“It is the best memory I have, but, interestingly, it is also the worst. It was in the last fight, in which I was drawn, after losing to 3-3, I went back to fight and lost. my opponent [o russo Musa Mogushkov] he used his head to avoid projection, which would be ippon ”, he explained.
Jorge Fernandes's farewell and Nuno Saraiva's stop came after a year of little competition – resumed internationally since October -, but it is too early to know the real impact of the pandemic on the sport.
"Only later will we realize, with the clubs, the consequences that this whole situation had on athletes and clubs," the president of the Portuguese Judo Federation told Lusa.