Judokas hope to pin down medals

Encouraged by its judokas winning their first gold since 1989 at last year's SEA Games, the Singapore Judo Federation (SJF) has set the wheels in motion to build on that performance.

After grabbing one gold, one silver and two bronzes in Myanmar, it hopes to produce four finalists and achieve medals in half of the available events when Singapore hosts the Games in June 2015.

Said national coach Low Chee Kiang: "Getting the first gold in 24 years has created momentum for the sport, and we hope to capitalise on it in the coming SEA Games."

Weak SEA Games performances prior to last year have been linked to lack of exposure and a different management team in the federation.

Last year, however, Games- bound judokas were sent to Mongolia, South Korea and Japan to become familiar with different fighting styles and tactics.

The overseas stints proved effective, and SJF has continued the policy, with 21 judokas travelling to Vietnam earlier this month for a training camp.

Plans have also been firmed up to send them to countries such as South Korea and Japan.

Ho Han Boon, who won that all-important gold last year, said: "Overseas competitions are a very important part of preparations, as we have to take care of our team-mates in training.

"In competitions, we can fight without that worry."

Back in Singapore, an August international tournament is in the pipeline, doubling as a dress rehearsal for the SEA Games.

Yesterday's National Judo Championships doubled up as the first round of selection for the Games. The winners in the nine categories will represent Singapore at an invitational competition in Indonesia in June, and from there on, top performers will be sent to Mongolia for training.

SJF high performance manager Gerard Lim said: "There is always a restriction of resources, but if the athletes do well in Indonesia, we will find the resources to further support them."

Even though the SEA Games is the immediate priority, it is a step towards SJF's long-term goal of better achievements and higher participation.

The Federation will be inviting the winners of the Schools National Judo Individual Championships to participate in an age-group tournament with Malaysia next month.

Meanwhile, next month's Singapore National Age Group Championships will see Under-8 and Under-10 judokas being involved for the first time.

Lim added: "We hope to have athletes in the Olympics in the future. Rio 2016 might be too soon, but by Japan 2020 we definitely hope to have someone there."

Ho is not looking too far ahead at this stage. The 25-year-old said: "I hope to perform better, as there will be stronger competition next year."

This article was published on April 28 in The Straits Times.

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