Top judo lineup tipped to shine at Comm Games
Judo gets few chances to shine in New Zealand so the sport is desperately keen to do so at July's Commonwealth Games.
A seven-man, four-woman team was yesterday named for the Glasgow Games and coach Robert Levy believes they have the ability - and have done the work - to put the sport on the New Zealand landscape.
Judo has only been at two Commonwealth Games, in 1990 in Auckland and 2002 in Manchester, and falls off the radar again for the 2018 Games on the Gold Coast so this is a chance Levy and his team don't want to waste.
Nine of the 11-strong team are ranked in the top three in the Commonwealth, but Levy warns that doesn't mean nine medals as the Kiwi judoka's world rankings have just improved after the recent Oceania Championships.
That said, Levy is confident this team will not return empty handed.
"All the stars have aligned for us at the moment," he said.
"We've got a blend of real experience and up and coming athletes who are really peaking for this event.
"We've got more depth and for the last two years we've absolutely dominated in Oceania."
Moira De Villiers, New Zealand's only 2012 judo Olympian and Tim Slyfield a Sydney 2000 Olympian and 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games bronze medallist have plenty of experience but there are a number of medal hopes.
Auckland's Ryan Dill-Russell is currently ranked No 1 in the Commonwealth in the under-90kg class, the same ranking enjoyed by Christchurch's Jason Koster (under 100kg) and Gisborne's Darcina Manuel (women's under-57kg).
Manuel, Ivica Pavlinic (under-81kg) and Nelson's Mark Brewer (under 81kg) have based themselves permanently overseas and have been travelling extensively in preparation for Glasgow, Levy said.
He was rapt with the strength of the team and the depth in some classes where New Zealand would be represented more than once.
The knockout nature of the event at the Games made predictions tough, but Levy said the seedings would be done on world rankings which should favour the Kiwis.
"If we came home with something like five medals, we'd be over the moon," he said.
Success would mean more exposure in New Zealand for the sport and the individuals. That could lead to more corporate support and with money comes opportunity to compete more overseas and that all helps them build to Rio. But first comes adding to New Zealand's six Games judo medals and having someone replicate what Brent Cooper did in 1990, stand on top of the podium.
AT A GLANCE
New Zealand Commonwealth Games judo team
Adrian Leat - 26yrs, -73kg; Hometown/Residence - North Shore, Auckland
Mark Brewer - 25yrs, -81kg; Hometown - Nelson, Residence - Sydney, CW Rank #4
Ivica Pavlinic - 25yrs, - 81kg, Hometown - Zagreb, Croatia, Residence - Queensland, CW Rank #2
Ryan Dill-Russell - 30yrs, -90kg, Hometown/Residence - Auckland, CW Rank #1 (born SA)
Jason Koster - 31yrs, -100kg Hometown - Christchurch, Residence- Christchurch, CW Rank #1
Tim Slyfield - 39yrs, -100kg Hometown - Auckland, Residence -Auckland/London, CW Rank #3
Sam Rosser - 26yrs, +100kg, Hometown/Residence - Northcote, CW Rank #2
Chanel Kavanagh- 19yrs, -48kg; - Hometown - Tauranga, Res - Mount Maunganui, CW Rank #2
Patti Grogan - 25yrs,-52kg, Hometown - Gisborne, Residence - Auckland, CW Rank #2
Darcina Manuel - 21yrs, -57kg, Hometown - Gisborne, Residence - Perth, CW Rank #1
Moira De Villiers - 24yrs, -70kg, Hometown - Auckland, Residence - Christchurch, CW rank #3 (Born SA)