If you’ve been on my homepage, or following me on Facebook, at all in the last five months then you’re well aware of how important the Oceania competition is for my Olympic Judo Selection.
In the 24 months of qualifying there are two OJU Championships and they are my best chance of scoring the big points I need for London 2012.
The lead up...
I began my preparation for this competition in the first week of 2011. I decided to skip the European Circuit in February as well as the ACT and QLD Opens in Feb-March and focus solely on winning OJU. This 16 weeks training block was the longest training block I had ever attempted, and I was leaving no stone unturned. I trained mainly in Melbourne but also spent a few weeks in Japan (see The Budo Diaries) as well as one week at the Australian Institute of Sport.
The last few days...
My final training week before the competition was split between Melbourne and Tahiti. My main focus was on continuing my momentum (and losing a couple of kg). I had made some serious progress in some key aspects of my game and I wanted to stay loose and execute all of those things. The National Coaches were very trusting and allowed the athletes to modify the training to their own needs and preferences. The weight came off quite easily as I had dieted for about 10 days as opposed to my usual four day crash diet and only had to sauna off 600 grams.
My draw saw me pitted against the top French Polynesian and New Zealander Judokas in a 3 man round robin with the winner advancing to the final. My first fight went perfectly. I wanted to finish the fight quickly as I knew my opponent Delanne was crafty and I didn’t want the parochial crowd have an influence on the fight if it dragged on. I fired off a left drop seio-nage attempt after about a minute and I knew straight away I had it. I drove up from underneath him and had the Ippon score, one down.
My next fight was against Leat from NZ. He is an opponent I had beaten only once previously (OJU 2010) and it was by accumulation of penalties. I knew my gas tank would hold up well so I planned to start with a busy work rate and try some big attacks from about three minutes onwards. Not to be, after about 50 seconds he sent me reeling with an uchi mata attempt. As I hopped off his leg, I swung him around and loaded up another drop seio. This one didn’t land as sweetly as the first but I didn’t care. I drove through the attack like a bull at a gate and had him on his back for another Ippon. I was into the gold medal match (ignore my celebration in the fight video, I am easily excitable).
Now I had a five hour wait until the finals. We stayed at the venue and I spent the time listening to music, chatting with my coaches, wrestling my team mates and other things to keep the mood relaxed. Once the finals were announced, I found out I was the second last match as they were going from heavy to light. In the end it was another two hours before I had my fight. I’d spent a fair portion of that time cheering on my team mates in finals and getting psyched for my own match.
I had Brown from Australia, someone I’ve fought since the age of 17 and we always have hard, close matches. This was no different. The first five minutes involved both of us trying to set the other one up for our favourite technique but canceling each other out. The match went in to Golden Score for three minutes. It was here that I decided I had to impose myself more and set the pace.
I began using my feet more and getting my opponent moving, managing two big sode-tsuri-komi-goshi attacks but neither one was scored by the referees. I was also able to set up a pin and held it for about 40 seconds but the referees stated that I didn’t have both of my opponents shoulders pinned so again, no score. The final 20 seconds was a flurry of attacks with both of us trying to win over the judges.
I won by the narrowest margin two votes to one. I am usually ecstatic when I win a final but I had a real sense of frustration from this one. I had trained so hard and improved so much but then didn’t execute anywhere near what I was capable of.
However, my mood lightened with the realisation that I fought brilliantly for two out of three of my fights. It’s also a pretty good thing if you can fight well below your best and still come away with gold right?
Now it’s time for some rest and then preparation for the next wave of competitions.
I will be contesting the National Championships in June and then three World Cup events in Pan-America in July and the World Championships in Paris in August which will see me another step closer to London 2012.
Thanks to everyone who supported me.