Alexi Plantard Gnorra (FRA) is 34 years old and he has been living in Thailand for the last 10 years. He loves judo and he loves travelling. He participated in the Veterans World Championships in Lisbon, Portugal. We met him, which gave us a good opportunity to understand a little more about the veterans age category.

"I feel fortunate because I can live from my passion fully, I can travel around the world and represent my country, my flag. I participated three times in the world veterans and this is my second medal, both bronze. This time I came to win, but I fought the Georgian and he is also a world champion in sambo. I could not do anything.

Last time, when I competed in Mexico, I was full of emotions. It was the best feeling of my life. I had all my friends there supporting me. After, we went to celebrate because with the veterans it is also about that. The friendship and the social side are very important for all athletes. 

Today I am happy but I'm missing something. Maybe if I had won gold I would be more satisfied but with bronze and with Covid protocols it has another taste.

I started judo in France when I was seven years old, in a small town not far from Geneva in Switzerland. Later, after we moved, my dad used to drive 50km everyday to go back and forth to US Orleans. This is when I started to think about judo more seriously.

For 5 or 6 years my dad drove me, everyday. He was there, watching my training from the stands, every single day from when I was aged 7 to 15. So, on one hand I felt that I couldn't play and enjoy the training 100%, because in every session I felt the pressure and I felt like it was always like the final of the Olympic Games. All competitions were 'if you don't win, you go back home walking.’ It was like a military school but I needed it, to be the best.

My dad was very clever; he always told me to have a plan B, I couldn't do just judo but needed to study as well. I went to a university business school, obtained my masters degree and at the same time I was competing for the university but I could never fully live my passion for judo.

Later, when I was 24, I decided to move to Thailand. I concluded my 1st masters degree and did my internship in Thailand. During the first year I was very lucky to meet the National Team Coach of Thailand. We had a very good connection and he invited me to train with the national team. I started to train three times a day, I had to study only five hours a week for my second master degree. I was going to competitions twice a month. Being in Asia for competitions was just amazing. I trained in the national training centre of Thailand, in Bankok, for three years.

My dream was always to compete for France, to represent France in the national team. I tried to knock on their door but I had the same answer always: it was good but not enough. 

One day I had the chance to participate in the Pan-American World Cups in Chile, Argentina and Peru. It was the end of 2015 and it was a dream come true. 

Now I am lucky because I have managed to secure sponsors, so I can finance my trips to competitions. 

For me in judo there are 3 stages. 

The first one is when you begin, when you enjoy and have fun with your friends, with your coach, your family. The second one is the high level, competing for your dreams, for the results and medals. The third one is competing for others, for society, to give back to the community, for the children, to build a better world. That's what I started to do lately. I established a judo club and worked on the transition. 

I started my club 2 years ago and Covid arrived so it was not the best starting time, but I am happy because I have around 20 children and we have connections with 2 international schools.

Next to judo I have this passion also for challenges. In 2011 as I was travelling to Mexico, I had the chance to participate in the National Championship of Mexico and I won. It was the first time I had won a national competition for a country. It is possible in some countries to participate in national events, even if you don't have citizenship.

This time I said to myself that I can do anything. After that I did my first marathon in Mexico City. It was an amazing experience and feeling. It is really a personal challenge, where you experience the impossible. It's a big test.

When you register for this kind of event, like Ironman and marathon, the organisers ask you, 'why are you doing this?’ My answer is always that I feel alive when I do this. I always dreamed of completing an Ironman, so 4 years ago I said, let's try, why not? Since then I participated in three ironman events. The first one took me 16 hours and 30 minutes, the second one 16h and the last one 15 hours and 30 minutes. 

There is a big difference between judo and ironman events. Judo is 4 minutes effort, not the same training preparation and not the same diet to prepare for the competition but judo brings me the mental strength to never give up. If you dream it you can do it. No-one can decide your limits for you. Just dream it and go for it! 

My next step is to become world champion. I want to win and give the medal to my daughter. After that I want to help improve judo in Thailand and have children going to the Olympics in Los Angeles USA in 2028."

Alexi Plantard Gnorra could speak for hours and we could listen to him for hours. There is not just one profile or demographic within the veteran community. There are as many as there are athletes. However, Alexi represents the passion for judo that is something they all have and they all want to share it.