AOC announcement -
JUDO: After two long years travelling to the four corners of the globe fighting for qualification, Australia’s youngest ever Team of Olympic judokas are set to live out their dream in Rio.
At an average age of less than 22, the fit and firing contingent of four men and three women will all make their Games debut as they go in search of Australia’s first medal in the sport since the Sydney 2000 Games.
Josh (-60kg) and Nathan Katz (-66kg) will become Australia’s first brothers to compete at the Olympics in judo while Josh will also become the youngest ever Australian male judo Olympian, aged just 18 and 220 days when the Games open on August 5.
Remarkably the Katz brothers are the seventh set of siblings to be selected for the Rio Team to date.
The duo are joined by 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medallists Jake Bensted (-73kg) and Chloe Rayner (-48kg), along with Miranda Giambelli (-78kg), Katharina Haecker (-63kg) and Eoin Coughlan (-81kg).
The four Australian men each secured their ticket to Rio after finishing in the top 22 of the Olympic adjusted rankings while Giambelli and Haecker both finished in the top 14 of the women’s rankings.
After battling back from injury, Rayner just missed the top 14 but having secured the most points of any Australian that failed to automatically qualify she also made the Team.
“I'm extremely proud to be able to compete for Australia at the Olympics as it's something I've dreamed about since I was a little kid,” said Josh Katz.
“It's really amazing to be able to share the whole Olympic experience with my brother. We've been training partners since we were kids and of course we want each other to achieve everything the other one does.”
While the Katz duo have put in years of blood, sweat and tears, they may have never have had a shot at Olympic competition if not for their trailblazing parents.
“With Mum (Kerrye) competing in 1988 (when judo was a demonstration sport for women at the Seoul Olympic Games) and my dad (Robert) the Olympic coach in the same Games they appreciate and understand what goes on to make this happen.
“I think they are very happy and excited for us because they have been through it all with us, especially some of the injuries and struggles I've had in the last couple of years, and they know exactly what it takes.”
The pair grew up eager to emulate their parent’s success but didn’t believe it would be this soon.
“I hadn't ever thought qualifying for Rio was a realistic possibility until 12 months ago, and I'm very honoured to be able to say that I'm the youngest Australian male to compete,” said Josh.
“I'm very excited to take what I've achieved this year to Rio and show that my place there isn't by chance.”
Potentially the toughest road to Rio amongst the seven Aussies was Rayner’s journey to the 2016 Games.
Having won five straight senior Oceania Championships, the pocket rocket was struck down by a hamstring injury which had her off the mat for four months.
“I missed out on a fair chunk of the qualification period which made it even more difficult for me to qualify for Rio,” said Rayner, who began judo at age 8 three months before immigrating to Australia with her family from the UK.
“It has been a dream of mine to make the Games and when I found out I had, it is a feeling I cannot explain. It’s been really tough but to hear I am on the Team is a massive relief.”
At just 19, Rayner is looking to soak up everything she can at her debut Olympic appearance.
“I’m quite young so I am hoping to make the most of the experience in Rio. I definitely want to go there and upset a few fighters and then build on that for my career.”
Bensted is also looking to take down many of his more fancied rivals.
After a successful two years which has included Commonwealth Games podium and back-to-back Oceania titles, the 22-year-old is ready for the biggest competition of his life.
“We’ve been working towards this for the past four years to be able to get there and hopefully do well will be awesome.
“Going into an Olympics you have to plan to win. There is no point going there to be second best. We’re going to do whatever we can to be on top of the podium.”
If Bensted is to climb onto the podium in Rio he will become Australia’s third Olympic medallist. Theo Boronovskis won bronze at the 1964 Tokyo Games and Maria Pekli matched that feat at the Sydney 2000 Games.
The Rio 2016 judo competition runs from the opening day of the Games (August 6) through to Day 7 (August 12) Josh Katz and Rayner open Australia’s campaign on Day 1.
These seven athletes take the overall Team to 167, with an expected final Team of over 400 athletes.
Australian Olympic Team