Australian Judokas jostle with the locals

Published 31 July 2016 (AEDT)

© olympics.com.au

JUDO: The Australian judo team hit the mat at Estacio University in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday morning, training alongside fellow Rio Olympians and local judokas.

The team were welcomed by children, teenagers and adult judo players as they put in a solid training session with competitors from New Zealand, Azerbaijan and Venezuela.

Coach Daniel Kelly guided team members including Jake Bensted, Eoin Coughlan and Josh Katz through the morning as the athletes begin to acclimatise to the conditions in Rio.

“Training was awesome,” 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Jake Bensted (-73kg) said.

“It’s been a good first couple of days here just shaking out the cobwebs just getting ready for next week.”

Sunday is a rest day for the team before training again on Monday.

The team participated in the Australian National Championships in Geelong in June before heading to Spain and Hungary for a training camp, returning home for one final push.

“Most of the hard training was done a few weeks ago,” Bensted, who won the 2016 Oceania Championship in Canberra, said.

“(We’re doing) some running to keep the weight down, just sharpening up to get on top.”

Bensted’s teammate – and serial roommate – Eoin Coughlan said the local club was of a “good standard”.

“It’s just good to get back out and fight,” the first-time Olympian said.

His goal at the Rio Games is simple.

“I just want to win my first fight. If I win my first fight I get a second fight.”

The three women of the team, Chloe Rayner (-48kg), Katharina Haeker (-63kg) and Miranda Giambelli (-78kg), displayed enthusiasm on the mat.

Giambelli, a former Italian national competitor, said she was getting over jetlag and training had helped.

“(The training venue) was outdoors, so when I saw it I was excited. It’s the first time I’ve trained outdoors like this,” she said.

The training space wasn’t the only part of Rio that had impressed Giambelli.

“The Olympic Village is unreal. It’s huge and so many buildings,” she said.

“It’s nice to see all the people around trying to understand where are they from and which sport they do.”

Alike Rio 2016 teammate Bensted, Rayner won Commonwealth Games bronze in Glasgow. Two years on and the 19-year-old said the start of the Australian Olympic campaign was going well and the team had enjoyed spending time together since arriving in Brazil.

“We gel really well together as a team and boost each other up,” she said.

“We get on really well so it’s nice to experience something like this with a good group of people.”

Candice Keller
olympics.com.au

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