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TM74OLYMPIC REVIEWMY GAMESWhen I started judo as I child I had noteven heard of the Olympic Games. It was only when I watched the Gamesin Barcelona when I was 17 that I thought I would like to win an Olympic medal. I just missed out onqualifying for the 1996 Games in Atlanta but I starteddoing well in other international competitions and went to Sydney four years later with a EuropeanChampionship title. As a small country, Switzerlandrarely scores highly on the medals table at a SummerGames so I was getting quite a lot of media attentionas a medal hopeful. The pressure was huge and I lost in the first round. In 2004 I went to the Games in Athens as one of the strong favourites having won the WorldChampionships silver medal the previous year. Yetagain, I was beaten in the first round by an athlete who technically should not have posed such a threat. I had mentally given into the pressure. The disappoint-ment was bitter. The Swiss media called it a "black day for Swiss sport" as both Roger Federer, a favouritefor gold in tennis, and I lost on the same day.I struggled to understand what had gone wrongand it took me close to a year to get over thatdisappointment. After that, we focused a lot of mytraining on my mental strength and I went into theGames in Beijing in a much healthier mental position.There was also less media attention this time round! The Olympic Games really are a special event, and differ considerably from a World Championshipsor other competition. The competition in itself is thesame, as are the judges, the mats and the competitorsbut the event as a whole is so much more awesome.The Opening Ceremony, for example, is massivelyimpressive. The sheer size and importance of theevent also explains the external pressure that some of the athletes can experience. With hindsight I realise the importance of my twoOlympic defeats before Beijing as without those I certainly would not have done all the work that I needed to get to a medal winning level. Winning thebronze medal in Beijing was, to date, one of the bestmoments in my life. I don't actually remember thewinning move but every time I watch my fight now I get the shivers. I think I am able to appreciate myOlympic medal all the more because of the hardshipand time it took me to get there. After my match I slept with my bronze medal for about a week! I was also able to really live the Olympic Games in Beijing as my event ended on the fourth day ofcompetition. I visited the Great Wall of China as well as the temples and markets in Beijing. The reaction ofthe Chinese people in the street was also extraordinary.They all wanted to have their picture taken with mealthough I doubt they even knew who I was. That is when you realise the aura of an Olympic medal. ?RightAschwanden acknowledges the crowd afterreceiving his bronze medal in BeijingMYGAMESSERGEI ASCHWANDENSWISS JUDOKA SERGEI ASCHWANDEN WAS ENROLLED IN A JUDO CLASS BY HIS MOTHER AT THE AGE OF EIGHT TOTAME HIS BOISTEROUS BEHAVIOUR IN THE SCHOOL PLAYGROUND. TWENTY-FIVE YEARS LATER HE LEFT THE BEIJINGGAMES WITH A BRONZE MEDAL, THE CULMINATION OF AN ATHLETIC CAREER FILLED WITH HIGHS AND LOWS INTERVIEW:KATHLEEN DI GIACOMOBEIJING 2008Bronze: Men's 81-90kg judo