It was their last mission: a ju-jitsu duo with Wiler’s participation won bronze at the World Games – and ended their careers
Thomas Schönenberger and Sofia Jokl were nominated for the alternative Olympic Games in Birmingham (USA). Without proper preparation, Wiler and his duo partner won the bronze medal.
Great success for the Wiler Ju-Jitsu athlete Thomas Schönenberger and partner Sofia Jokl at the end of their international career: at the World Games in Birmingham (USA) they win the bronze medal in the duo-mixed category. The World Games are considered the Olympic Games for non-Olympic sports. They take place every four years.
On Tuesday evening, Schönenberger and Jokl are on their way home. During a stopover in New York, they talk on the phone about how they have experienced the past few weeks.
Only three weeks of training before the competition
The two only found out that they could take part in the World Games three weeks before the competition. When it was clear that they would be wildcarded for the Pakistani team, they announced on their Facebook page that the competition in Birmingham would be their last.
Sofia Jokl and Thomas Schönenberger have been on the road as a duo for over ten years, and they have won several world and European championship titles during this time. Only one medal was missing from the collection at the World Games – in Ju-Jitsu the “biggest and most important competition”, as the 37-year-old says. At the last edition in 2017, it was only enough for the thankless fourth place. So the unexpected trip to Birmingham got the aura of a final mission.
It was a mission under difficult conditions. “Our training cycle before major competitions usually lasts several months,” says Sofia Jokl. “We could completely forget that.”
Instead, they would have focused on “getting reasonably fit” for the three weeks and training on the subtleties of the processes. Unlike classic ju-jitsu duels, the duo categories are about showing a rehearsed fight, which is then graded by a jury.
“We were able to make up for the lack of training to a certain extent with our experience,” says Thomas Schönenberger. The duo already spent the first day of competition, on which they did not have to compete, in the hall in Birmingham. Sofia Jokl says:
“We were able to soak up the atmosphere and increase the anticipation of the competition.”
The fact that they had to travel to Birmingham without proper preparation also gave them a certain light-heartedness, says Thomas Schönenberger: “We didn’t have to deliver. We were just happy to be there again.”
His duo partner adds: “At the same time, we knew that anything is possible at the World Games.” For example, defeating the reigning world and European champions Julia Paszkiewicz and Johannes Tourbeslis from Germany twice in the tournament. First in the preliminary round, then in the fight for bronze.
In the last few weeks, however, they have once again become aware that the decision to resign is the right one. “We noticed how much our priorities have shifted in the last year,” says Sofia Jokl. Both work 100%. Along with sport, there is “not much time left” for family and partners. So Birmingham was definitely the crowning glory at the end.