EUSA Insider:

Jean-Michel Fernandes

Age:                   26
Place of Birth:  Braga, Portugal
University:        University of Minho (POR)
Sport:                Taekwondo                                                                                          Published 16 July 2019

How and why did you get involved in Taekwondo?
I started Taekwondo at the age of seven in a gymnasium at my hometown. My father and his friends were members of that gym, called Koryo, and the owner was also the Taekwondo Master, a Sabonim as we say in our sport. At the time I wasn't doing any type of sport, so after watching a few classes of the senior Taekwondo team, he decided to register me there. I loved the first contact and became passionate about it. Today I still have those same feelings – Taekwondo and everyone involved in it became part of my life, they are like a family to me.

What do you study, and how do you balance your study, training and competition?
Everything is doable if you are disciplined and have a balanced routine. I would go to school hours for five to six hours a day, then I would go home or directly to the dojang to train at the end of the day (19/20h until 21/22h). Our sport has strong values, which are taught from day one. Also my "punishment" as a child was not being allowed to train, so I learned quickly to be organised in my studies. Of course there are some sacrifices you make: when you are young, you have the choice to train or to play with friends; as a teenager you have the choice to go out or to train. I chose to train, so for that reason I only know what is like to study and do sport at the same time, and I am quite happy I made that choice.

Jean Michel Fernandes Taekwondo

Tell us about your experiences at the European Universities Championships 2017. Was it your first time at a EUSA event, and what did you enjoy the most?
I always liked these competitions because there is a more relaxed spirit from everyone, where you can make friends and share ideas with students and athletes from other countries and sports, but there are also those tense and stressful competition moments. The European Universities Championships 2017 was my 5th competition in a university context. It took place in my beautiful country and I managed to obtain a bronze medal, even though I was aiming higher. My first University competition were the European Universities Taekwondo Championships in 2011 held in Braga where I was a silver medallist. Since then I participated in two Universiades and four European Championships. That said, the most significant competition for me were the EUSA Games in 2016, where I obtained the most desired Gold medal.

Why do you think taking part in university sport is important?
Above all, university sport allows you to understand that you are not the only one doing sacrifices to be better. It is the representation that all over the world there is a student-athlete doing what he likes and studying at the same time. University is the last step of education and the one that will dictate how your future will unravel; as such it is one of the most challenging phases of our life. Although practicing sport during university may seem complicated due to the limited time available, there are lessons and situations that will directly be correlated to classes and exams. Sport is about overcoming difficulties, trying to beat the opponent, yourself and your fears. After facing such challenges, you will grow and become wiser, therefore university will be easier.

“Sport is about overcoming difficulties, trying to beat the opponent, yourself and your fears.”

In 2019 the European Universities Taekwondo Championships will take place in Zagreb, Croatia. Do you hope to be there, and if so, how have your preparations been, and what do you hope to achieve?
Unfortunately I already finished my studies and I am currently working as a bioengineering researcher at the Centre of Biological Engineering at University of Minho, so I am not eligible to participate. If, hopefully, I obtain a PhD scholarship, I will be eager to return to Universities Championships.

What is your favourite university sport moment?
I must say everything to do with Taekwondo. I’m still in love with the sport even though the rules and dynamics are constantly changing. There are no perfect players, there is a lot of different fighting styles, from athletes that like to spin, or athletes that are very tall or very strong. Because of these variations from athlete to athlete, each fight is different. It is a sport where you don't stop learning or stop seeing new things.

Jean-Michel Fernandes Taekwondo 2

What is your message to European student-athletes like yourself?
Follow your dreams and do not quit because it is too hard. In the anthem of University of Minho it is written "Estes anos são viagem", which translates to "These years are a voyage", so enjoy every moment of the road. 

EUSA would like to congratulate Jean-Michel for his successes at the EUSA European Universities Championships and Games, and we wish him all the best for the future!