Judokas to Sport NZ: Throw us some money

FRED WOODCOCK IN GLASGOW
Last updated 05:00 28/07/2014
REAL DEAL: Tim Slyfield, left, and Jason Koster show off their hard-earned medals.
ROBERT KITCHIN/FAIRFAX NZ

REAL DEAL: Tim Slyfield, left, and Jason Koster show off their hard-earned medals.

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If you don't call us, we'll call you.

That's Judo New Zealand's message to High Performance Sport New Zealand after its 10-person team completed a brilliant Commonwealth Games campaign yesterday.

Judo received a big fat zero in high performance funding in the buildup and was even overlooked for targeted campaign funding for Glasgow but produced five medals (two silver and three bronze), almost doubling its all-time Games medal tally which sat at six before Thursday.

Compare that to triathlon, for example, which is a targeted Olympic sport in HPSNZ's eyes. Triathlon received $7.43 million in government funding in the four years leading up to Glasgow and won nothing.

New Zealand's gallant judokas achieved success the hard way, having to fork out an estimated $10,000-$15,000 each to get to Glasgow and give themselves a fighting chance.

JNZ had scrimped and saved during the past four years to get $80,000 in its ''fighting fund'', which it divided up between the 10 athletes to help with costs.

''Our guys are used to struggling,'' Judo NZ national director Graeme Downing told Fairfax Media.

''Some of these guys have been in Europe for the last six to eight weeks and travelling backwards and forwards before then, so it has been a financial burden and some of them have copped hefty loans to get here.

''It is difficult. The geographic isolation doesn't help our guys at all, coupled with the fact judo internationally is a big sport and in New Zealand it is a minority sport, so it's very difficult for us to attract corporate sponsorship.''

Downing hoped the five-medal haul - two more than they had ''cautiously'' told the New Zealand Olympic Committee was their target - would be a launching pad they could ''leverage off''.

''It was also planned that the $80,000 we put aside was an investment to try and promote the sport, which the guys have certainly done,'' he said, beaming as he pointed out the Kiwis had finished ahead of Australia in the judo medal count.

There was only so much they could do without funding, though.

''In order to develop they've got to compete, and in order to compete they've got to travel. So for them getting to training or an event costs them a) a lot of time and b) a lot of money.

''Clearly they are used to working in that sort of adversity so when they get to an event like this, they want to make the most of it. They've worked hard and deserve this success.''

Downing said New Zealand had shown they were competitive at but the Olympics were a ''whole different ball game''.

''We're talking more than 200 countries in the international federation, so that's a massive step-up.''

Part of qualifying for Olympics is accruing enough world ranking points and there were none available from the Commonwealth Games tournament.

But given where the New Zealanders were at after the impressive showing in Glasgow, Downing hoped some would directly qualify, ''otherwise we'll be back down to where we were in London with one spot (which went to Glasgow silver medallist Moira de Villiers)''.

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As for the strength of the sport in New Zealand, Downing said membership had risen, but not in leaps and bounds, though seven new clubs emerged during the past year.

''We are an exploration sport in New Zealand so we have a lot of people who try the sport and move on after a year or so, particularly the younger age groups.

''The more clubs we have more opportunity we can provide. It's a numbers game - we don't get the funding we'd like so we have to resource it all internally.''

- Stuff

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