3rd in 2013 and 2016, Vinicius Figueira (-67 kg) finally won the Panamerican championships last June. Finalist in Berlin and Santiago, current World n°2, the Brazilian fighter is making his best season. World bronze medalist in 2014, 5th in 2016, he is one of the favorites for the podium at the World championships in Madrid (November 6-11).
By Ludovic Mauchien
How is it to be Panamerican champion ? What do you feel ??
I had already won two bronze medals in the PanAms but this was my first gold medal. It has a very special flavor. I was very happy with the result and I was very confident because I won the competition without taking points.
Since June, you were on the podium 3 times out of 4 (Panams, Berlin, Santiago). Do you think you are in your best shape ever ?
I feel good but I don’t know if it’s my best shape ever. I don’t think that I fight better now than at the beginning of the year. I’m doing the same things but the results are coming.
The season has been long. How do you feel ?
The season is really very long. This year, I participated in more than 15 competitions, in four different continents. There were many trips and many training camps, which was tiring. But it is a strategy that aims to reach the best way in the World championships. We arrived in Spain three weeks before to be concentrated, to control training and resting, to be great-prepared and at rest on D-Day. Doing something that I really like to do makes me feel good. As my mother says : « this is the life you have chosen ».
Are you satisfied with your preparation ?
Yes, because I know I did my best. I followed my team’s strategy to get in the best shape at the World championships. I have been dedicating myself to be World champion since 2013, when I dedicated myself exclusively to karate. I participated to the main competitions in the world, I trained with excellent athletes and technicians from all over the world. Now, there is not much else to train, just make some adjustments and rest.
Has your way of preparing changed since there are more competitions than before ?
For me, it has not changed much because I have always tried to participate in all competitions. But my strategy is to go to a competition and keep traveling in the country until the following competition. Because I live in America and most of the competitions are in Europe. Sometimes, it is not possible for me to go home.
What is your planning for the week before the World championships ?
One week before the competition, we are reducing the training, being only one training per day, in order to avoid physical injuries. The idea of the previous week is to control food for weighing, to train enough and to enjoy the moment that we hope so much.
What is your the most important at the Worlds : getting points for the Olympics or being World champion ?
My goal in karate has always been to be World champion. This is my 3rd participation in World championships. In 2014, I was bronze. In 2016, I was5th. This year, I have the opportunity to achieve my goal : to be World champion. Getting points for the Olympic ranking is a consequence.
What is your strongest wish, to be World champion or Olympic champion ?
When I started to dedicate myself exclusively to karate, the most important competition was the World championships, so my biggest goal has always been to be World champion. This is still my biggest goal because I have not won it yet.
With karate becomings Olympic, we had the opportunity to dream of something bigger. I believe that if I work and be the best in the world, the qualification for the Olympics and the Olympic medal will come as a consequence.
What made the difference at the Panams this year when you win, comparing to the previous ones ?
My mind. I think this time, I was more relaxed and less concerned with the results.
How do you look back and analyse your performance in Tokyo ?
It’s not so bad because I fought for the bronze medal. But I did a little mistake in my fight against Japan’s. I can fix it for the next competition.
What did you learn from your past World championships ? What experience did you get ?
I learned that I cannot want too much, because it makes me very nervous and I do not fight well. I have to enjoy and be happy on the tatami, so I can see the fight and do everything I trained. I have to be happy because that’s where I always wanted to be.
What do you fear the most thinking about the Worlds ? Yourself ?
I fear the result. But it does not depend on me alone. I know I did everything I have to do to be the best in the world. I just will.
Uygur, Da Costa, Shinohara, Tadissi : 4 different schools and styles. Which one do you prefer ? Do you fight them differently ?
They are four excellent athletes, the World’s best. Each one has a fighting style and his school. Tadissi knows how to use his height and take advantage of distance. Da Costa is very skilled and has a lot of technical ressources. Shinohara has a perfect timing. Uygur, besides being very good technically, is very good strategically and knows how to play. To fight each one requires a different strategy. But I can not forget my strong points.
Do you have time to do something else than Karate competition ?
I don’t have another occupation, but when I’m home, I like to stay with my family and make barbecue in a farm.
Do you consider that Karate has changed a lot for the last 2 years, with the Olympics coming ?
Yes, karate is now more professional. All athletes can go to all competitions, have more study, more science, more organization. Personnally, I have more support, more visibility.