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Judo Olympian defends coach who slapped her face as part of pregame ritual

Martyna Trajdos, who ended up losing her match, said her coach slaps her to "fire me up."
/ Source: TODAY

A judo competitor at the Tokyo Olympics is defending her coach after he slapped her before a match, explaining that it was part of a pregame ritual.

The incident occurred on Tuesday as German judo star Martyna Trajdos, 32, prepared to face off against Hungarian competitor Szofi Ozbas in the women’s 63kg elimination round.

Martyna Trajdos
The viral moment with her coach happened shortly before Trajdos (top) competed against Hungary's Szofi Ozbas. Vincent Thian / AP

Just before stepping into the ring, Trajdos paused in front of her coach, Claudiu Pusa, who shook her by the collar and slapped her on each cheek. She then nodded at him before heading toward the ring.

“As I already said that’s the ritual which I chose pre competition !” Trajdos wrote on Instagram, after the moment sparked controversy. “My coach is just doing what I want him to do to fire me up!”

“Look’s (sic) like this was not hard enough ☺️🙊🙈!” she also wrote in the caption. “I wish I could have made a different headline today 😢.”

The International Judo Federation reprimanded Pusa for the incident.

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

Martyna Trajdos
Trajdos lost her fight against Szofi Ozbas.Franz Waelischmiller / picture-alliance/dpa via AP

However, many people on social media sympathized with Trajdos’ take on the situation, including Dennis van der Geest, a Dutch judoka who won a bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics.

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

“Anyone who has done judo or combat sports understands. Best of luck in competition!” another person commented.

Trajdos lost to Ozbas on Tuesday. This was the second Olympics for the German judo star, who competed in the same division in 2016 in the Rio Games. She also won a bronze medal at the 2020 European Judo Championships.