He was thinking about bowing out in the Rio Olympics in 2016, after 13 years of loyal service, sweat and hard work. A decade of top-level games punctuated by two Olympic bronze medals (2008, 2012), three silver medals at the World championships (2009, 2010, 2013), seven European medals, including three gold ones (2008, 2015, 2016) and 14 podiums on the IJF World Tour, including six wins.
Henk Grol finally decided to get back in the game, for better or for worse. The worst is his knee injury that forced him to be forfeited all year 2017, except for the Open weight category Worlds, where he fought on one leg (loss in the 2nd round). The best is his 3rd place at the Tel Aviv European championships late April, his first in the +100 kg, his new category.
At 33 years old, the Dutch warrior starts a new career in the heavyweight division ! He is not so much foreign to it as he will find his best enemy once again, Lukas Krpalek, the 2014 World champion and 2016 Olympic champion (-100 kg), who also moved up. Three years after their last fight, nine years after their first one, the Czech fighter won during the Golden Score in the ¼ finals in Tel Aviv, for their first match in +100 kg. Right after, Henk Grol dominated the rising star of the heavyweight category, Georgia’s Tushishvili, for the bronze medal.
« I am now stronger physically. I am in good shape. I just want to fight big guys to get used to their physical power », said Henk Grol in the wake of his European bronze medal. He is ready for his new life of Judoka, for his quest for a third Olympic medal, which would make him the equal of the Dutch icon, Mark Huizinga, whom he had replaced at short notice one day in 2007.
By Ludovic Mauchien