Vladimír Kocman

* 1956  

  • “We always said that you were a ‘glass man’ when you lost, yeah. That meant that every time you met your coach, he saw right through you, as if you were made of glass. He just… It was hard for him even to say Hi to you. With the Germans of French, or even when I fought in Austria for a couple of years – whether you lost or won, they treated you the same way. It was all cool, it was just sports. And late in my career, when I was around thirty-eight and fought in Austria, well that was when I finally started really enjoying judo, the way I should had been enjoying it from the very beginning. I would go to a judo competition and would not be all nervous and stressed because of some fear that if I lost it would be terrible and I wouldn’t get, I don’t know… That that it would show in all aspects of my life, starting from the salary and ending with me not going on the next competition, and so on. So, the pressure on athletes was incredibly big, much bigger than on athletes today.”

  • “And we always had these, well we called it ‘dead aunt’ or something. We had a marine duffel bag full of salami, cookies, chocolate wafers, instant soup mix and all that and we tried to live off of it there, so our famous trips as top athletes from the national team had this dark side too. Or I remember, and that was really funny, that this very kimono with which I had trained with, well we would arrive with these yellowed kimonos and wash them in Kodokan, the judo school, and we bought their washing powder and used it. The only thing is that we were there for maybe a month and when we were leaving, we all had a perfectly white kimono. It’s just their washing powders were something completely different than what we were used to here. So, those were just small details but they were important, you know… I remember every time we were appearing somewhere, well when you saw the French appear, you know, Adidas, everything fit perfectly, and then you saw the Eastern Bloc: Bulgarians and us, with sweatpants Pleas Jablonec, you know, it had bags on the knees, white zips all around, the red sign on our back and it was all washed out… Well, you were just losing three points already because of that. Because judo, and sports in general, is about self-confidence.”

  • “And when you crossed this line it was like a load off your mind, the fear was gone and suddenly… you felt completely different there. Even from a plane, looking down on it, you could tell Czechia and Germany apart. Because Czechia was just darkness. A light here and there – a big city, a few lights – whereas in Germany everything was illuminated, the roads, everything, so we always noticed the difference and we really enjoyed it… we really relished it.”

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    ZŠ a MŠ J. Š. Baara v Českých Budějovicích, 23.11.2018

    (audio)
    duration: 01:15:43
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
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Trips outside Czechoslovakia were maybe one half of athletes’ motivation

Vladimír Kocman in 1980
Vladimír Kocman in 1980
photo: Vladimír Kocman

Vladimír Kocman was born April 5, 1956 in České Budějovice where he grew up together with his three brothers. As a kid he did sports in his free time, including hockey, soccer, bike riding or skating. He started doing judo in high school which he fell in love with and trained every free minute he had. Soon he got into the junior national team a started driving around competitions all over the world. He won the bronze medal at the Moscow 1980 Olympic Games. He prepared for the Los Angeles 1984 Summer Olympics but couldn’t attend it eventually (like many other sportsmen), due to the political conflict between the Communist Bloc and the West. Despite that he was able to travel many parts of the world only few could visit during the Communist times, such as his two-months long judo training in Japan. Even though he came from an atheist family, he found faith during his judo career which eventually led to the end of his professional sports career. He had to work as a boilerman until the Velvet Revolution in 1989. He started a sports supplies business in the 1990s. Today he is retired and leads a Christian parish.