What's with Rio? Part 1

Rio is a city I have visited twice in my Judo career, first the 2007 World Judo Championships and then in 2010 I competed in the Rio Grand Slam.

 

Last weekend saw Rio de Janeiro hosting their annual Grand Slam event.

 

Rio is a city I have visited twice in my Judo career, first the 2007 World Judo Championships and then in 2010 I competed in the Rio Grand Slam.

 

So, 2007 Worlds was my first competition as the Australian number one in my weight class. I was nervous and excited. I was blown away with all the fanfare of the event and starstruck at the prospect of competing amongst my heroes.

 

I spent 3 days watching my team mates going out, giving their all and coming up short (except my buddy Carli Renzi who beat GEO first round). I was sure I would get flogged quickly because I was way out of my league. Instead I was able to beat my first and second opponents which saw me in the round of 16 up against Joao Derly of Brasil. Two years earlier he had created history becoming his country’s first ever World Champion and 8,000 supporters had come to see him do it again.

 

As we walked out to fight the crowd went bananas and I knew for certain this wasn’t going to be fun. After a few early exchanges I managed to sweep hiss feet out and plant him on his face. That was something he definitely didn’t like and he proceeded to clobber me with a big right hand. Our next exchange saw him drop under for Tomoe Nage and the crowd boo me for passivity, I thought whilst I was in their bad books I may as well play up to it so I proceeded to try and pass his guard by kneeing him in the chest and letting my right hand go a little bit too. We had made our intentions clear and now it was a fight. Not long after this he threw me with a modified Yoko Guruma and transitioned to the most painful Tate Shiho Gatame pin I have ever experienced. I had clearly awoken the beast and it had bitten me on the ass big time.


I waited around for a few hours to see if Derly would get in to the Semi’s to see if I had a repechage fight. He did (and ended up winning his second World Championship) and I was back in. I was to fight the winner of China and Mongolia, both of whom Derly had defeated comfortably. Mongolia won and I was up against Sanjasuuren of Mongolia. At the time Sanjasuuren was an unknown fighter (he’s since won the World Masters twice and been ranked #2 on IJF WRL) so I thought I might have some sort of chance. We spent 4:45 with him dragging me all over the mat and me hanging on for dear life but incurring two Shidos. With 15 seconds left I saw him knackered so I charged straight at him only to have my legs scooped up with Morote Gari and my day ended.

 

11th place at my first Worlds was something I saw as a real positive and the fact that I hung in there with some top class players meant that maybe I was ok at this Judo stuff.

 

Fast forward to 2010 and I had gone through a form slump, threw away my chance to compete at Beijing 2008, suffered an elbow injury and subsequent reconstructive surgery, the IJF had made Olympic Qualifying much harder for Aussies, they had abolished leg grabs and my time out with injury had me ranked number four in Australia.

 

Wasn't looking great for me but I had wanted to go to the Olympics since I was five years old, this crap wasn't going to stop me.


I looked at the IJF calendar and saw Brasil had a Grand Slam and World Cup and decided I would target my comeback at those events. They hadn’t been well attended the year before (so were hopefully going to be easy WRL points) and I had good memories of my last trip, so what the hell? 

 

To be continued...

 

What's with Rio? Part 2 here 

 

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