Coach B.Gantogtokh is one of the best athletes in Mongolia who graduated from the University of Physical Education and Sports. When we went to meet him at the Central Sports Palace, he was busy practicing with his students. We felt proud of him when he was teaching his students one by one and step by step, aiming to prepare the world champions. Under his guidance, who has been working as a teacher at the Mongolian Judo Academy for the sixth year, the academy has conducted a few joint training sessions with Japan, and when competing in major domestic and international competitions, the team won the first three places and was awarded the championship trophy. We talked to B.Gantogtokh who is guiding his athletes on the path to success by adjusting their harnesses, laying the right technical foundation for their wrestling, and teaching them tactics, skills, ethics, and respect.
In the upcoming January, numerous competitions will be held. Athletes who win the National Championship will get the qualifications to participate in international competitions. Will your students compete in the National Championship?
Of course. Our academy’s teams compete in the National Championship and stand in the first three places. Judo is developing rapidly in the provinces, due to athletes from there competing equally with judokas from the capital city. Lately, 1,000 athletes compete in the junior, youth, and adult age categories and wrestle for three days. Khangarid team from Orkhon Province, Chandmani Orgil team from Tuv Province, Shine Badrakh team from Selenge Province, and Yalalt team from Dornod Province show the audience a great wrestling performance and make the atmosphere of the competition even more interesting. The Mongolian Judo Academy has four branches in Ulaanbaatar. Similar to Japanese Judo Academies, it has a hierarchical system, so it differs from other clubs in many ways. All of that can be seen from the upbringing and development of the athletes, their respect for their teachers, friendly communication with their friends, and their behavior. My students clean up the trash of the audience in the hall after the competition. Doing so encourages them to do the right thing and influences them to dignify the jobs of others from an early age. A child needs to be a good person before aiming to be a good athlete.
You are one of the coaches who have worked for a lot of years in the Mongolian Judo Academy. What makes you love your job more?
I have been working in the Mongolian Judo Academy since 2018. The girls and boys who were taking classes here have already become adults. It’s good to see my students growing so fast and developing their abilities. Some of them are competing in the Junior World Championship, the Youth World Championship, and the Grand Slam. Also, O.Khuslen grabbed the silver medal from the Ulaanbaatar Grand Slam 2022 in the women’s adult category. I went to Fukuoka, Japan with my students and did joint preparation for 14 days with judokas from Tokai University. Japanese children are disciplined. They bow to their coach and listen to the coach’s advice after leaving the sports ground even though they lose or win. I was proud of their demeanor during the competition, attitude, tenacity, and the way they respect any person. Although the customs and culture are different, Japanese athletes were trying to get close and became friends with Mongolian athletes. We had a lot of things to learn from there.
You wrestled in the same weight class with Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist Ts.Tsogtbaatar from childhood. It seems to me that you put off a wrestler’s hat early and became a coach. If you continued to wrestle, maybe you could be more successful?
I graduated from the National University of Physical Education as a coach. I think I achieved my level of success when I was an athlete. When I started wrestling in 2014, I met with Ts.Tsogtbaatar in the 42-kg category and progressed with him being mutually obligated. Judakos wrestle sambo because their gripping techniques and tricks are similar. I won and was selected as a champion in the junior and youth judo and sambo national championships several times. A person who has practiced consistently has achieved good results in the youth category. When this time came to me, I decided to become a coach. I was happy that my friend who wrestled with me in the same weight class won medals from the Grand Slam, the World Championship, and the Tokyo Summer Olympics. I vividly remember how I prayed for him to win a medal at the Tokyo Summer Olympics.
Why did you wrestle judo after starting your career as a freestyle wrestler?
I connected with freestyle wrestling due to my interest. When I went to the University of Physical Education and Sports to register for freestyle wrestling class, I met with my relative who worked as a judo coach and he influenced me to join a judo class. On the first day of training, female and male judokas beat down me. After training for months, I felt discouraged and wanted to go back to freestyle wrestling. When I participated in my first competition, I was thrown by my opponent after just shaking hands. The point was given to my opponent when I stood. From that day, I started to study judo’s rules, gripping techniques, and features. I am the third alumnus of the School of Physical Education and Sports. I was attracted to judo after defeating my classmates and increasing my ability while wrestling with the athletes.
You have some relatives from your mother’s side who wrestle Mongolian traditional wrestling. Have you ever thought about training in Mongolian traditional wrestling?
Athletes are flexible. Freestyle wrestlers participate in the traditional wrestling competition. I was not interested in Mongolian traditional wrestling because of my height and weight. My uncle has a rank of Provincial Elephant. My family was interested in making me a traditional wrestler when I was little. I first trained in freestyle wrestling under the guidance of coach L.Enkhbayar in the Temuujin Sport Training Center. Z.Zanabazar, who was training with me at the time, was successful and grabbed a bronze medal from the World Freestyle Wrestling Championship in the 57-kg category. My parents were cheering and helping me while participating in the competition even though they hadn’t watched. When I was little, I was shy and didn’t talk closely with my parents. Since I trained in judo, I became closer with my family and my friend's circle has expanded. From the time I started to achieve success, my family told me “Be faithful and persistent in what you aim for”. When I was training in freestyle wrestling, I used to think that when I saw judokas trained until they sweated, they would get caught in their clothes and get tired. Now I’m wearing judogi (judo uniform) and coaching athletes.
Did you understand the difficulties of teaching after you become a coach?
Yes, I did. I understood the difficulty of my coach’s job, who has been working so hard not even resting for our success. I teach my students what I learned from my coach. I hope they become Olympic and World champions in the future. Since I worked as a coach, my relatives and friends have started to let their children go to the branches of judo training centers close to their homes. Our academy teaches judo to children from the age of six. Recently, parents have been asking their kids, “Why can’t you get a medal when they get it? They are the same age as you, right?” and comparing their children with others. An athlete who trained from a 12-year-old kid will show a difference when they compete with an athlete the same age who trained for six years. If athletes don’t warm up well during the training and learn to fall properly, they will injure themselves. I went through a difficult path until I achieved success, so now I teach my students the right techniques and exercises from the beginning.
You are a student of Coach G.Erdenebat of the University of Physical Education and Sports, right?
Yes, I am. Students of our academy became the opponents of my teacher's students in a lot of judo competitions. I advise my students during the competition while sitting in front of my teacher. In the fight for a medal, both of us shout for our students to succeed. Sometimes it is interesting to compete like this. Sometimes after the competition, my teacher came and said “When you train your students, pay attention to that child’s wrestling style”.
Is your son training in judo?
I have two sons. My eldest son trains at the Mongolian Judo Academy. And the other one is a first-grader. If he is interested in training judo, I will let him train. Also, my wife is a doctor. My parents-in-law take and bring our kids from school when we are busy. I am thankful for them because they always support us. Judo educates children properly and provides equal education in breeding, psychology, skills, technique, and physical education. A coach must be knowledgeable and constantly searching. Based on the research, training the athletes according to the new rules will lead to success.
During joint training in Japan, did you notice your students’ advantages and disadvantages?
Japanese children wrestle with the lapels and sleeves. It was observed that Mongolian children’s gripping techniques are not as good as Japanese. But in the process of wrestling, it was seen that they found the opponent’s method and grasped the opponent’s lapels. In my case, I adapt my students to the physical characteristics of my athletes and offer a variety of tricks. The taller ones will be taught tricks such as big inner reap (ouchi-gari), inner-thigh (uchi-mata), and big outer (osoto-gari) techniques, while the shorter ones will be taught body drop (tai-otoshi) and shoulder wheel (kata-guruma) techniques. Looking at my students reminds me of my childhood. I become more energetic and forget the social stress in their noise. Compared to the first time I was working as a coach, now I know the character, attitude, and activity of my students better.
It is noticeable that children who train in sports have learned to be independent from their childhood. How supportive are your students’ parents?
The attitude and support of athletes’ families lead to success. No matter how an athlete and coach try their best, if an athlete’s parents are not supportive, the chance to succeed is less. Success will be achieved when an athlete, coach, and parents understand each other well. Our academy’s students’ parents support their children well. Children become experienced after practicing judo for a few months. I learned to be tough and patient from my childhood like them.
My parents live in Batsumber soum of Tuv Province. I used to live alone in Khaniin Material in Ulaanbaatar City when I was in the eighth grade and went to the Central Sports Palace. When I came home in wintertime, I shirked to make a fire and went straight to bed. At that time, I was complaining to my parents because I used to think they didn’t care about me. Afterwards, I found out that they wanted to make me strong and independent. Batsumber soum is not far from Ulaanbaatar. I always used to go home on weekends and say to my mother “I’m coming. Please, prepare delicious food for me”. When I came home, there was always warm food. I’m the oldest son of my family and I have a younger sister. She wanted to become a judoka like me. She competed in the Provincial Judo Championship and won the silver medal. Now she works as a Mongolian teacher at school. When I was training as a judoka, I used to watch Kh.Tsagaanbaatar’s matches and dreamed of becoming an athlete like him. I am proud to see him as a coach and to train his students for the competitions.