Fran Garrigós picks up the phone from the Doha pavilion, where the Judo World Cup is taking place. This Monday Ana Pérez competes, her partner and he is at the foot of the tatami to see her. “Thank you, thank you [gracias]”, he is heard answering thanking the congratulations of the athletes with whom he comes across. Not even 12 hours have passed since he was proclaimed world champion in the -60 kg category. He is the fourth Spaniard to achieve it after Miriam Blasco, Isabel Fernández and Niko Sherazadishvili. “I slept rather little, four hours, I was exhausted, every time I turned in bed my whole body ached,” he says. In contact sports, each weight class has all the fights concentrated in a single day, with which they compete from early in the morning until late at night. Along the way, the Spaniard got rid of, among others, the reigning Olympic champion and four-time world champion, the Japanese Nahoisa Takato, and in the final he defeated the Uzbek Dilshodbek Baratov.
Garrigós, 28 years old, was a junior European champion, he has been twice in the absolute category and was world bronze in 2021. That year, the year of the Games, he won a double, European gold and world bronze. Hence, he was one of the medal candidates at the Tokyo Olympics. However, things did not go well at the Budokan. He was eliminated in the first match, as it already happened in the Rio 2016 Games. But if in Brazil the pill was less bitter due to his youth – and his psychologist Pablo del Río insisted on this – since he was barely 21 years old; in Tokyo it was much more difficult to digest. Hence, upon returning from Japan, he decided to take a few months off.
This is how Garrigós himself tells it, who his parents signed up for judo when he was four years old to see if he would calm down a bit and come home tired. “He was a naughty guy,” he recalls. “Tokyo was a pretty big stick. Firstly because the Games are always the goal at the end and secondly because I arrived in the best conditions and after the European gold and the world bronze…”. And he continues: “After the Games I took some time off. I was still training, but not 100 percent. My goal was to finish the degree I was studying in Sports Physical Activity Sciences. I did not compete until February 2022 [Gran Prix de Portugal] I went there without being in shape but to test myself and see if I wanted to continue competing. I realized yes when I saw that it bothered me to lose. If you don’t feel like competing this becomes a pain and in that case it’s better to leave it”.
As the bug continued to bite him, he returned. And in 2022, in fact, she won European gold. This is how Pablo del Río, who has been working with Garrigós since 2012, values the importance of taking a break when the body and mind ask for it. “The wear and tear in elite sport is beastly, and even more so to prepare for the Games. Taking time to rest and take stock is necessary. I always tell Fran, even more so at her age, that she has to regulate herself: ‘You have to go to compete hungry to compete. We cannot go to all the fairs, because if not the bull catches us”. That break was good for her, firstly, to focus on other objectives -in this case, the study- and, secondly, to realize, already cold, that she did want to continue competing. The Paris Games, the third of hers, are just around the corner.
His parents and his two sisters, he says, gathered at home on Sunday to watch the World Cup together. “They are the first to rejoice in each success, the ones who are always there, even in defeat, because when you win, everyone is there, but when you lose…. There are only two or three people who write to you”. To Fran, who is called skewer -because he is not very tall and because of the way his hair is combed up-, everyone describes him as a smart and intelligent boy. Quino Ruiz, his technician, says that he is also an artist. “He is a hard worker, a good guy, an example for everyone in the club [de Brunete, donde se entrena junto a Sherazadishvili, otro campeón del mundo] for being so hardworking, for his ability to overcome and effort. He never does anything at 80%, he always gives one hundred. Work, work, pick and shovel, pick and shovel.”
And notice the other classmates. So much so that on Sunday, in the fight against Baratov, he pulled out of his hat a movement that he had never done. He saw a teammate do it and repeated it on the tatami in a world final. “That is having talent and a capacity for improvisation that is brutal,” emphasizes Ruiz, the manager of the small Brunete sports center, far from all the spotlights, and from which two world champions have already emerged. And he concludes: “It is that we are in a small town, in Brunete. It’s like Asterix’s village, they must all think we have the magic potion”.
You can follow EL PAÍS Sports on Facebook and Twitteror sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.