Judo wrap: Judo team targets Tokyo success

Published 24 August 2016 (AEDT)

Katharina Haecker © 2016 Getty Images

JUDO: Seven young Australian judokas headed to Rio daring to dream of a deep run in their debut Olympic competitions.

While that didn’t eventuate the foundations have now been put in place for a successful Tokyo 2020 campaign that could yield the nation’s first Olympic medals in 20 years.

“One hundred per cent they’ll be better for this experience,” head coach and four-time Olympian Daniel Kelly said.

“The qualifying process is very difficult so the fact that they qualified the way they did is a credit to them and a credit to their coaches.

“They all should be a lot better for this and we should have some real medal prospects next time.”

The four men and three women were all aged under 25 and included the nation’s youngest ever male Olympic judoka in 18-year-old Joshua Katz.

“This is for sure the youngest Olympic team I have been a part of with no one being over 25 let alone 30. Every other team there has been a lot of older fighters,” Kelly said.

“It’s a steep learning curve for everyone and hopefully they’ll be back within six months and ready to push on for another campaign.”

Katharina Haecker and Jake Bensted were Australia’s only fighters to secure a win, while Katz, his brother Nathan, Chloe Rayner, Miranda Giambelli and Eoin Coughlan bowed out in the first round.

While the results weren’t the ones the team was looking for, Kelly believes that the group will be much better for the experience.

“I hope the disappointment is a fire that burns and helps to carry them through a long and draining qualifying process and put them in the best position for the next time around,” Kelly said.

“Competing at the Olympics is forever. They gave it the best shot they could but another four years and they are going to be better for it.”

Once those four years pass they will be aiming to add to Australia’s two bronze medals in the sport from Theo Boronovskis (Tokyo 1964) and Maria Pekli (Sydney 2000).

Matt Bartolo

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