Denis Weisser has everything of a man in a hurry, but he is not. A civil engineer, he runs a company with more than fifteen employees. He is also the Director of the IJF Veterans Commission and he has just arrived in Lisbon for the World Veterans Championships, commencing on Thursday 21st October in the Portuguese capital. After visiting the stadium where the competitions will take place, he commented on his role as head of the Veterans Commission and his career as a judoka.

"My first feeling is one of relief that at last the family of veterans is back together again. The last world championship was held two years ago in Marrakech, Morocco, but since then we have not met, due to the global pandemic. I am really very happy to be here in Portugal, in this beautiful city of Lisbon. The weather and the hospitality here are wonderful. It feels great to see so many friends again, whether they are athletes, officials, referees or local organisers. We didn't know how long this was going to last, so being able to be together, finally, gives us a lot of energy. After the cadets, juniors and obviously the seniors of the World Judo Tour, it was really time the veterans could find their way back to the tatami as well."

If the long months that have just passed have been difficult for all, the veterans community has also suffered greatly, "I have kept in touch with everyone and I also know that the veterans have continued to exchange a lot, using all possible means of communication. For a few months, we have discussed the best solutions to resume our activities. Thanks to the Portuguese Judo Federation, we have been able to set up this world championship, in the strictest respect of the sanitary measures. In the meantime we were staying as fit as possible."

Lisbon, Portugal

To understand the state of mind that animates the whole community, it is necessary to know that, "The Veterans represent a group at the same time both disparate and truly united. The profiles of community members are very varied. It is necessary to understand that those who made the trip to Portugal, given the global situation, are pioneers and they will lead many other judoka in their wake. Nothing would have been possible without a very close collaboration between all the entities of the IJF, from the Presidential Office and President Vizer himself, through to all the committees involved, the organising federation and the participating federations. The safety of all participants is our top priority."

During the next four days, Denis Weisser will be keen to watch the judo practised by the oldest, "My interest really lies in beautiful judo and I'm sure we will see some incredible ippon judo. We have very good judoka present and I am very optimistic. I visited the venue this morning and I am impressed with the work being done by our Portuguese friends. I expect a very high level show."

By definition, the veterans represent the oldest judoka, in other words, the judoka with the most experience, but if judo is at the heart of all discussions obviously, it is not only that which counts, "The World Championship participants attend with their families. Competition is important for everyone, of course; there are world championship titles at the end but it is different from any other event. For cadets, juniors and seniors, the athletes come with their delegations. Here they come with family or friends and they come to find, not opponents, but friends above all."

Denis Weisser has been in charge of the Veterans Commission for two years, "This is my second world championship at the head of the Commission and I can say that all of us, we are convinced that this competition is really special because it perfectly illustrates the idea of a life dedicated to judo. I took over from Andre Bondor who led the veterans for many years. He passed on a lot to me and I work with a very efficient commission, in perfect agreement with other IJF commissions such as sport, refereeing, events or the media."

Although he continues to learn every day, Denis already has serious experience in the field of judo, "I started judo when I was thirteen. I was the first in my family to play this sport and I was not really supported by my parents, who took ten years to come to see me at judo but in fact, I thank them, because I was able to make my own way, without interference. I was free. At 19 I was treasurer of my judo club in Bavaria. At 20 I was the coach and then the president at 24. I am still president of my club. I am a civil engineer and therefore had to complete many years of study, but I must say that almost 50% of what I need in my professional life, I learned through judo. It is a real school of life. By saying that, I think about resistance, endurance and even willpower. Judo taught them to me."

All this work, Denis does voluntarily, "It is a deep commitment. I have my professional and my personal life in which I am perfectly fulfilled. Judo is a question of desire and love. I consider that by being stronger in judo, you become stronger in life. I always try to do my best and when that is not possible, I look for solutions to improve myself."

If his interest is obviously focused on the veterans, Denis nonetheless looks in another direction, "Young people, for all the reasons I mentioned just now, interest me a lot as well. There are many lessons to be learned from a judoka lifestyle. Today I am 51 years old and two years ago I was still competing in my club team with young athletes, including my own son. I loved that. It was another way of giving him something that will serve him all his life."

No, Denis Weisser is definitely in no hurry. He approaches all with with philosophical calm, "I don't put pressure on myself. I know we've been through a tough time, but we're going to survive. This world championship in Lisbon is such an encouraging sign. I know the next one is coming and in time it will be even bigger and stronger but for the moment it's Lisbon that interests me and all the athletes who made the trip."

Finally, there is only one thing for which Denis Weisser is in a hurry, to be on the edge of the tatami to follow the competition.