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Matea Jelic Interview
SportsEdTV Hello, everyone, and welcome to Sports TV Live. Today, we're talking Taekwando, and we have the honor to have Matea Jilek, who is from Croatia and a multiple Grand Prix winner. She's a grand slam winner. And she just won last week, the European Championships in the minus 67 kilogram weight division. Maria, thank you so much for joining us.
Matea Jelic: Thank you for having me. I'm so happy to talk with you right now.
SETV: You are in your hotel room and ready to compete again tomorrow. So this is the Spanish Open, right?
MJ: Tomorrow is five. Day two. Today was waiting. So now onto the next one. And I'm happy to fight tomorrow.
SETV: Sounds great. So we have to start with the European Championships. You just won the gold medal forever. You will enter the short list of the people that can say that you are European champion. How does it feel? And can you walk us through a little bit about that feeling?
MJ: Yeah, I'm right now, I just like, try to be focused for tomorrow’s fighting, but it feels amazing to be with the greats…so many good fighters and European champions. When I was a kid, I always I always dreamed about going to that stage, where I can go to finals and then give my everything. So I'm just really proud of myself and my coach and I'm so happy.
SETV: So can you walk us through a little bit about your perspective from your European Championships? First fight. Second fight. You know, the challenges you went into the golden round in the semifinals, I think, against the French athlete Waqas. You know, when you're in this type of situations with the biggest competitions, what goes through your head? And can you give us a little insight from your perspective?
MJ: Of course, it was so hard because with some in seven finals, it was so hard for me. I just felt in one moment I lost my legs. I couldn't, like, kick really hard. So I was just going with my heart. My coach told me, “just believe in myself and just don't let yourself your yourself lose because you fight so hard for this. You train so hard for this. Just push it”. So I was just like, OK, let me do this and just give it all I have and save for the finals. I just go with my all heart. So I'm proud of that.
SETV: As you should be. And when you were in the it's golden round, you have no more legs and you say you go with your heart, what do you rely on? You know, it's not only mental. So do you focus more on technique? Is it more really the mental strength of trying to make the best out of the opportunity? What is the most important when you're in this moment?
MJ: It's just don't feel sorry for ourselves. Don't think you are weak because I do have my legs, but I didn't make excuses for myself to lose. I just I did two punches, so I just go, I will find a way to win.. You have your hands, you have your head, your head is strong. You went through so much going like that. If you lose, it's OK, you give everything. But I just didn't want to lose.
SETV: For sure. And congratulations for winning this fight and ultimately winning the European Championships. That was a one of the major big competition that you participated in a while you weren't able to compete for so long because of the Covid situation. Can you walk us through your process of not being able to compete? I know you personally. You're you are an addict to fighting. You love the big moments. You love the semifinals, the finals, the lights. What was it not to being able to have competition as an athlete and only have training during isolation?
MJ: Yeah, it was it was really hard for me, I think all of the athletes who like to fight in finals are grumpy and get addicted to the feeling. So you need more. So that year after 2019, we needed much competition. It was so hard to just relax and just be home. It was so hard for me. But what was in my head. Everything will start eventually, so you have to keep strong, keep your body and mind in shape. So like, one day it will just go and everything will be packed into one year. So now we have Europeans, Olympics and world. So I think it's good too. I always stay strong and be ready, so that kept me going through the time without competitions,
SETV: Do you at one point say, OK, I'm going to use this time to work on different things, you know, that I'm not going to be able to do when there is many competition? Did you focus other things? And were you able to focus a little bit more on either developing more other techniques or developing some other things that you're not able to when it's regular season?
MJ: Yes, this was so important. I think this is the most important year of my career, this Covid time, because in all my career and all my competition years, I never did have time for myself to think and to prepare mentally So I never had time to stop and just reflect and think about my head and myself. So I did that. I did that this year and the last year. And I did some like stuff I never did in taekwondo to make myself stronger. In some areas I was weak. So I think now I just I'm just much better, like in in my head and in my body.
SETV: And you must feel good to go from training for so long to get back to high level competition and win the gold medal to start the year again of competition. I think we are like less than one hundred days before the Olympic Games. So that must give you so much confidence. Can you tell me a little bit about the impact that that gold medal for the European Championship brings to your confidence?
MJ: Yes, it is. It is great for confidence, but I don't go to too high or too low because I don't have time for that. If I go to too high, the competition is too strong. The girls are so good. So I had to just keep like this is just another test. It is even harder to be on top and everyone's like everyone wants to beat you. So you have to change some things and be better and stronger. So I think now is this time for me for sure.
SETV That's such a great way to think about it. And I want you also to ask how competing in this bubble environment is? You know, no fans, even your own team cannot be there. It's really just you on the mat and also the environment of being in a hotel, not being able to go outside. Can you walk me through what your experience is to go through competition with these kinds of conditions?
MJ: It is different. Of course, it's different for everyone. We all just try to adapt to this and try to spend a lot of time together with our team. So it's different because when you go inside, it's like quiet. You hear everything, you hear referees, you hear talking, you hear every little sound before. You try to focus on your coach somehow. It's just another test. So I think you can use this opportunity to be more focused, more ready in your head. So it's good for me. I think it's really good for me.
SETV: Perfect. You talked about the relations with your coach. You guys are really close. You guys know each other by heart. Can you tell us a little bit about the relationship when you guys are on the mat? You know what he expects from you. Discuss a little bit about that coach-athlete relationship.
MJ: Yeah, I think every athlete is different. And when I came to my coach, I was ranked Number 28. And I was always losing to the best fighters and it was like big point of difference when he came and put me in the right direction. So I trusted him. I think he's the best for me. So really that is why we have that connection. I trust him. He trusts me. It's really special for me. I'm so grateful for him and I'm happy he's here with me.
SETV: And so now you're in Spain. You go from being in Sofia last week to Spain now is the goal before the Olympics to try to get as many competitions in, to get back to testing things or getting back in competition shape?
MJ: Yes, I think this is meant for Olympics. Of course, it is the most important competition of the year, but we don't have any other competitions in Spain so it is the last one before Olympics. This is the last opportunity to feel everything. So I think it is.
SETV: I just want to talk a bit a little bit about preparation going to the Olympics. It's such a tough competition. You know, I really look at it and it appears from the top six, anyone can win on any given night. Are you rivals? Is there camaraderie? And, how does that play out between you?
MJ: Yeah, I really I really respect all of my girls in my division because in some way they make me better. They make me work on myself. I think that is the most important thing. Of course I want to win. They want to win, but I really respect them. So I always I always think six to seven is the best category and everyone loves me. I'm so tall. Should I go to seventy three or maybe plus and I really don't want because I think six to seven has the best girls. I just want to work on that to be the best.
SETV: For sure. Embracing their competition and the competition. You're going to have time between now and the games. How do you optimize this time? You know, what do you think is going to be key? I know there is so many different components. It's not just the physical health, it's also managing your mental approach. How will you you optimize from now until the Olympic Games?
MJ: I really think, like everything that happened to this day, like many, many years before, I think everything has led me to this moment. So I will try to continue to believe in myself. I have enough experience and will work to not to make these Olympic Games like too much for my head.
SETV: Perfect. Because Sports TV is a channel where they break down so many techniques, they are trying to bring education about different many sports for free online. Which one would you say is your favorite technique to develop? Which one would be your favorite one to do in competition?
MJ: I’m known because of my front leg. It's fast and I can score with it, but I think I can work on my push. So, I think I can and will work on that. I just try to learn from every other fighter. I love to see new stuff and everything. I really love taekwondo.
SETV: And we can see that. We can see your passion. Thank you so much for taking the interview. Even though that you are competing tomorrow, we're not going to keep you up to late. Thank you so much for joining. Good luck tomorrow.
MJ: Thank you so much. This was fun.
SETV: And for you guys watching, (reading) thank you for joining. And remember that you can watch every breakdown, every technique and learn about the sport of Tae Kwon Do and many other sports on sports at TV.com.