Judo runs strong in the de Jong family

Judo runs strong in the de Jong family

Being awesome at judo isn't exactly common, but having three siblings who are all gold medal winners is practically unheard of


The de Jong siblings (from left) Charlotte, Thomas and Emma with their sensei.

Emma, Charlotte and Thomas de Jong are tougher than they look. Even though all three are under 13 years old, this family can pack a punch - literally. The three siblings are all gold medal champions in judo, a martial art and Olympic sport.

The three de Jong children each began learning judo when they were just four years old, encouraged by their father who felt the martial art would teach them balance and self-defence. "It keeps me fit and focused," says Emma, a student at German Swiss International School, and the eldest at 12 years old.

Emma has won gold in Hong Kong's Junior Judo tournament seven consecutive times from 2012 to 2015. Her younger sister Charlotte, age 10, who studies student at Kiangsu Chekiang Primary School along with her younger brother Thomas, has won four golds at the tournament. "With judo you don't need to be powerful," says Charlotte. "You need to use your technique and use your brain."

This planning and strategy come in handy for Charlotte, who competes in the 27kg-and-under weight class and says her opponents are usually larger and heavier than her. When competing, she has to think carefully about which move will work for her as a smaller fighter. "For instance, some judo moves like ippon seoi nage - a shoulder throw - are useful against taller people," she explains.

For a sport like judo, you can't judge an opponent by their size. "I'm surprised by some of the girls who look small and easy to beat but are actually really strong and quite hard to throw," admits Charlotte.

At eight years old, Thomas is the youngest of the three siblings, and knows how it feels to be smaller than his competition as well, competing in the 25kg-and-under weight class. "I like judo because it makes me stronger," he says. Thomas took home his first gold at the Samsung 58th Festival of Sport Hong Kong Junior Judo Tournament in May this year.

Emma de Jong performs an o-goshu on her sensei, Alex Lee Kan.
Photo: GSIS

But while judo competitions are fierce, Emma says it's also important to be honourable: competitors know and appreciate their opponents. Emma was reminded of this at this year's tournament.

"My opponent was strong and good," Emma remembers from her fight in the 36kg-and-under class. "At this year's final, she was in the lead but in the last 10 seconds, I threw her - which was lucky. But she was a really good sport. She came to congratulate me afterwards and I really admire her."

And Emma says that can be the hardest part of the sport - learning how to lose. "I remember being really disappointed when I lost," she says. "But I guess life goes on."

The three siblings practise judo twice a week at the Ladies Recreation club under the guidance of their Sensei Alex Lee Kan, who competed as part of Hong Kong's Olympic judo team in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics.

Emma says he has taught them not only how to be strong in competition, but graceful in defeat. "Sensei Alex always tells us even if you are thrown, keep trying, because there is always hope."

Bench Notes

What song/movie title best describes you when you're playing your sport?
Charlotte: Adele's Rolling in the Deep. I love the lines:
"There's a fire burning in my heart, 
Reaching a fever pitch
And it's bringing me out of the dark ...
Don't underestimate the things that I will do."

You can have any superpower you choose for 24 hours. What do you choose and how do you use this power?
Emma: The power to be invisible. I would want to experience being among my family and friends without them knowing I am there.

Ten years in the future, you are a famous athlete. What company do you sign on as a spokesperson for, and what product do you promote?
Emma: A Box of Hope - it's a charity our school was involved in to send relief help to earthquake victims in Nepal last year. I'd want to join a company or promote an organisation that encourages every student to bring A Box of Hope filled with a tarp, books, snacks, first-aid kits, blankets, etc to be sent to the needy kids in the world.


This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
It runs in the family


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