#WorldJudoDay: First Peruvian judoka aims to inspire others
Date: October 28, 2021
The last time Freed Villalobos Corrales and his Japanese mentor Kento Iwanaga met, the latter was in Peru teaching people with visual impairments judo.
Two years later at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, Villalobos Corrales became the first judoka from Peru to compete at a Paralympic Games and Iwanaga was working at the official training venue.
“I feel that my encounter with him, the time we spent together, and the journey to this point have all been lifelong assets in my judo life,” Iwanaga said. “This feeling is so full of emotion that words alone cannot express it.”
Iwanaga was in Peru from 2016 to 2018 as part of a programme that sends judo instructors to developing countries to grow the sport at grassroots level.
“I started when I was 27,” Villalobos Corrales said. “Judo was one of the sports they had as a choice in university and ever since I tried it, I liked it a lot. I like the discipline of it, the philosophy and how it teaches you to respect your opponents.”
The two men met at the judo club where Iwanaga was teaching and quickly bonded:
“We talked about many things, such as how he would like to visit Japan someday, how he would like to train at the Kodokan, and how he would like to participate in international competitions.”
After Iwanaga returned to Japan, he kept in touch with his Peruvian protege and in 2019 invited him to an international judo tournament and camp for athletes with visual impairments, held at the Kodokan Judo Institute in Tokyo where he was working.
The Lima 2019 Parapan American Games were the push for developing Paralympic judo in Peru with Villalobos Corrales the first Peruvian judoka to win a medal at the Games, when he took bronze.
And by qualifying for Tokyo 2020 he helped to keep the fledgling programme in Peru alive.
“The programme in Para judo is very small. Freed is the only one. He is the first in history and it is very important to have the first judoka here (in Tokyo),” his coach Daniel Vizcarra said.
Villalobos Corrales made his Paralympic debut in the men’s up to 81kg event at the legendary Nippon Budokan on 28 August. While he lost in the round of 16 to two-time Paralympian Gerardo Rodriguez Reyes, he did not let that dampen his spirits.
“I want to continue for a longer time. I can still improve. I have been in judo only for a few years, so I can improve more,” Villalobos Corrales said.
“Judo in Peru will grow, it will improve. I have started something and there will be more people coming after me.”