Judokas ready to fight big guns

Published 6 August 2016 (AEDT)

Australian judokas take to the mats in Olympic Park, Rio de Janeiro © olympics.com.au

JUDO: The 2016 Olympic judo draw is out and the prognosis is mixed for the Australian team, but a handful of winnable matches are motivating the seven-strong squad.

Starting on Saturday morning in Rio (evening AEST) the competition will be a tough test for the young team but one that will challenge and drive them in preparation for Tokyo Olympic Games 2020.

Head coach Daniel Kelly said the draw was promising for many of the team, but he anticipated a few surprise performances too.

“(The draw) is ok, there’s no real easy draw in an Olympic Games but there are definitely some winnable fights in our favour, a couple of matches against sides that will be really competitive but winnable,” Kelly said.

“Stylistically in most cases they’ll be a good a match.

“You can never bank on anyone; one thing that often occurs is that the favourite goes out first round, it happens all the time.

“This is a good opportunity for them to experience competing at this level under the spotlight. It puts them in very good stead. We’ve never had a team this young, there has always been a few athletes over 30.”

As a four-time Olympian, Kelly is familiar with the mixed emotions the team is experiencing.

However his advice is clear and simple.

“(I’ve told them) that it’s just like any other competition, to go out there and fight as hard as they can, don’t come away with any regrets,” he said.

Chloe Rayner, 19, of Windaroo, is first up in the – 48kg category taking on Laetitia Payet of France who has proven to be in form in 2016 claiming bronze at both the Polish and African Opens. In 2015 Payet won gold at the Grand Prix Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia.

Also on the opening day Josh Katz will meet Diyorbek Urozboev (Uzbekistan) in the -60kg.

Brother Nathan Katz -66kg fights on Day 2 (Sunday 7 August) against Imad Bassou of Morocco while the -73kg men battle between Jake Bensted versus Andrew Mlugu of Tanzania follows on Day 3 (Monday 8 August).

“Nathan has beaten Bassou in a very close match in September last year, then (Bassou) became the African champion (African Championships, Tunisia, April 2016),” Kelly said.

“Nathan has improved a lot since then, he is much more physically imposing now.”

But the match of the meet is sure to be Miranda Giambelli (-78kg) who will meet Brazilian Mayra Aguiar.

“Her style is similar to Miranda’s and Miranda has beaten competitors in the top 10 in the past year,” Kelly said.

“Miranda has six or seven days before competition so I hope that the challenge energises her.”

Competition starts on Day 1, Saturday 6 August at 10am Rio time (AEST 9am).

Candice Keller

olympics.com.au 

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