21 years of training, 4 years of heartache, 2 years of qualification, 12 week final training camp, 16 days of Olympics and it came down to 1 do or die moment.
It’s very hard for me to put the Olympic experience in to words. Judo is so cut throat that the entire lead in, years of preparation, dedication and sacrifice can be over in 30 seconds.
So, I’ll start this off with Thursday morning when I got my draw and knew I had to fight Colin Oates of Great Britain. Colin was European Medallist and World 5th place in 2011, more
importantly I had trained with him a few weeks prior in Nymburk and he threw me around like a rag doll.
I knew this wasn’t an easy draw, especially given the home support he’d have on top of all that stuff.
Oh well, it’s about the 12th time in recent years that I’ve had to come up against the home town hero 1st round. Seriously Brasil, Czech Republic, Venezuela, El Salvador and
China just to name a few. I’ve put up with a few boos in my time and this one would be the mother of all crowds.
Friday night I marched in to the Olympic Stadium and felt an unbelievable sense of pride and accomplishment. To have 80,000 people cheer the Australian Team was something I will never forget. Rubbing shoulders with Lebron James, Usain Bolt and the other superstars of sport made me think I was in some sort of movie and it wasn’t real.
When they lit the cauldron and I felt its heat, I knew it wasn’t.
Cutting weight the next day was tough as usual, but with the Olympics on the line it was no problem. I had worked with my club coach and team mate Daniel Kelly on a very specific game plan to neutralise his reach and his lefty style. My warm up was intense and I had our 90 kg machine Mark Anthony beat me up before I did some hard randori with national coach Tom Hill. Tom is unlucky enough to also be a leftie and was able to simulate what I was going to come up against.
Once it was time to head through Judogi control and head out to holding area I was pumped, more than any other competition. I felt a war was coming and I was as ready as I’d ever be. The crowd
first put up a decent boo when my name was announced and then an almighty roar when Colin’s name was called.
I started the fight hard and wanted to show Oates this would be no walkover. I was doing well to stay out of danger but he was getting under me for sumi gaeshi off every 50/50 grip. I was penalised for stalling and tried pushing the pace a bit harder. I avoided his countless sumi attacks and spent a lot of time fending off his strong Newaza. I was able to get in 2 decent drop seio attacks in that time and was trying to set that up as the technique to land a score on him.
As we entered the last minute the score was still 0-0 with me having a warning shido. Oates got under me for 2 more sumi’s and the refs decided I was not being proactive enough. A 2nd shido meant I was down a yuko with 40 seconds left.
I knew I had to go hard from there and take some risks and when I charged at him he finally finished a sumi and scored yuko. From then, he spent the rest of the fight trying to get his leg out of my half guard and get me in osae komi. I fought it off with everything I had as I refused to go out like that. The clock ran down and he had won.
I was gutted. I gave that fight everything I could and it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t able to get enough good attacks in and it cost me, my Olympic dream was over.
As time went on, I had some tiny consolation in that Oates went on to defeat Tsaangabaatar the world number 2 and World Champ next. He then only lost to the eventual gold medallist from Georgia
in golden score by a yuko. This means I fought a damn hard guy and didn’t lose by much. This only really means I could have gone that deep in the draw too if I’d been a little better.
The rest of the games were fun and I was able to follow the Australian team in Judo and other sports up close. Cheering them on and watching their success provided me with national pride but constantly reminded me of my own missed opportunity.
There was some fantastic moments where I witnessed my good friend Mark Anthony become the first Judoka to defeat a Georgian -90 player in Olympic competition in 12 years, saw the Dream Team in action and so many other moments I will tell my kids about in years to come.
The Olympic Games for me was a 16 day fantasy land and I am glad I took photos.
Was my result what I wanted? No.
Was my 5 minutes on the mat worth the 21 years of training I put in? Absolutely.