Krpálek clinches Olympic gold in judo competition

Lukáš Krpálek, photo: ČTK

The Czech Republic’s Lukáš Krpálek clinched the Czech Republic’s first-ever Olympic judo medal on Thursday winning gold in the under-100kg division in Rio. Krpálek couldn’t have faced a tougher path to gold, ousting the reigning and former world champions and the current world No. 1.

Lukáš Krpálek,  photo: ČTK
There is a large mounted photograph of judoka Lukáš Krpálek up in the lobby of Czech Radio which went up even before the Games began and on Thursday, unlike the pic, his performance was anything but flat. In the final match Krpálek threw Azerbaijan’s Elmar Gasimov, the current world No. 1, for the maximum ippon securing victory. The winning throw was described as classic judo. Later, he said he had realised an “incredible dream”. Speaking to Czech Radio’s flagship Radiožurnál on a line from Rio on Friday, he discussed the victory and what it meant for him.

Lukáš Krpálek,  photo: ČTK
“I am enjoying the moment as much as I can although I have to say I don’t think that it has fully sunk in. It not something I could have told you would happen and it is something which doesn’t happen very often.” In fact, Krpálek admitted that much of what when on in the final was all something of a blur. It was only after watching a video clip of the match later that it all came back to him. The champion again:

“I had to ask the guys what had happened. I was in such a euphoric state, to have reached the final and to have won, that I had to ask them what had happened, what I had done!”

In the lead up to the Games, Krpálek knew he had absolute support from his wife, with whom he spoke on the phone after his win.

Lukáš Krpálek,  photo: ČTK
“I felt enormous support from my wife, the whole time she supported me, even when I was not in a good mood or was nervous ahead of the games. I know there were moments when it must have gotten on her nerves, when I was nervous, so I really have to thank her and now I will focus all my time on my family.”

The 25-year-old is the first Czech to win a medal since the Velvet Divorce with Slovakia. In the former Czechoslovakia, Vladimír Kocman secured bronze at the Moscow Olympic Games in 1980, which were boycotted by the United States. On Thursday, Krpálek dedicated his golden victory to his baby son and fellow Czech squad teammate Alexander Jurečka, who died in a scuba diving accident at Lago di Garda, Italy, last year.