NZ judoka Tim Slyfield back from his own 'hell'

MATT RICHENS IN GLASGOW
Last updated 05:00 25/07/2014
Tim Slyfield
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OUT OF THE DARK: Tim Slyfield is back at the Games after a 12-year break.

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Tim Slyfield is 12 years older, nearly 20kg heavier and he and his family have been through hell and back since he won a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games.

The now 39-year-old judoka, who is also Judo New Zealand's high performance manager, is the only surviving member of the team that competed in Manchester when the martial art was last a Games sport. He was a half-middleweight (73-81kg) back then. Now he is an under-100kg fighter.

The weight increase came after national coach Rob Levy sized him up as a potential heavyweight, and asked if he fancied piling on the pounds.

"I even asked him if he wanted me to bring doughnuts to training every week," Levy joked.

Slyfield's natural weight was in the high 80s. He is now closer to 100 but says he was never going to get to the 115kg plus that a heavyweight typically fights at.

Nor was it a beer-and-pie weight gain, or open licence to scoff doughnuts.

"It was a lot of hard work in the gym and a protein-rich diet," Slyfield said.

After the Sydney Olympics and Manchester Commonwealth Games, Slyfield was over the sport.

"I was training twice a day and really didn't enjoy it any more."

He and wife Alison had son James and then daughter Kate. When James was three he was diagnosed with leukaemia. After three years of treatment, he was given the all-clear.

"James' illness had an effect," Slyfield said. "It was obviously a really tough time for him and the family, but it makes you conscious of how important life is, and making sure you use your life the right way.

"I'd gone through that time of really not enjoying it, but then it didn't seem that bad any more. There were people going through much worse than us, but it puts the hardship of training into perspective, it puts life into perspective. A couple of trainings a day is nothing."

A healthy James, now eight, and six-year-old Kate arrived in Scotland this week, and that in itself was a big deal to the Slyfields.

"This is huge for us. We hadn't been away as a family for a number of years because James couldn't travel."

Slyfield is in the same weight class as fellow Kiwi Jason Koster, who is ranked No 1 in the Commonwealth, and says it would be a dream final if the pair could make it to the decider.

Scottish flag-bearer and local favourite Euan Burton is also in the under-100kg class, and coming up against him means taking on a parochial home crowd at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre.

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"The aim for me is to do better than the medal I got last time," he said. "I was a little disappointed with the bronze. I fought the ex-world champion in my semifinal, though. I'd certainly be keen for progress, even if it is 12 years on.

"I want a different colour."

Slyfield and Koster first compete tomorrow night.

- The Press

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