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Grand Slam glory can boost Olympic ambitions

MEDAL AMBITION: Colin Oates is targeting a Grand Slam medal to help secure a top eight world ranking
MEDAL AMBITION: Colin Oates is targeting a Grand Slam medal to help secure a top eight world ranking

Colin Oates has set his sights on Grand Slam medal joy this weekend as he aims to boost his chances of Olympic glory in Rio De Janeiro this year.

The North Lopham-raised judoka flies to Paris this weekend in a return to action in the first major tournament of an Olympic year, having ended 2015 with two last-16 exits at elite tournaments in a tour of Korea and Japan.

His efforts there left the 32-year-old in 11th place in the world rankings on 1,228 points, a mammoth 846 points ahead of nearest British Under-66kg rival Nathan Burns, ranked in 43rd, with Team GB only eligible to take one athlete per weight category to Brazil for the Games, which commence in August.

And so with his Olympic selection all but secured, barring major disaster, Oates’ attention is now on overhauling the current 131-point deficit to Russia’s eighth-placed Kamal Khan-Magomedov, with the top eight placings carrying an automatic seeding into the Olympic Games.

“I have to be ambitious and as a result I’m targeting the top eight to make sure I get a seeding spot at the Olympics,” he said.

“Getting a seeding would give me a greater chance of challenging for a medal at the Olympics and so that is the aim.

“I’m a little behind eighth place and so I think to close the gap a place in a Grand Slam final is needed to make up the points.

“That’s not impossible. I’ve reached the final of a Grand Slam event three times before in the past and so if I can produce the same level of performance then I have a good shot.

“I’ve had a good break over the winter and so I’m feeling a lot fresher than the end of the last year.

“I finished fifth last year in Paris and so I certainly want to at least surpass that.

“My real hope and aim for the weekend is not only to reach the final but to win a medal as well.

“The Paris Grand Slam is one of the bigger tournaments and so I need to perform.”

With Oates also entering the latter stages of his competitive judo career, he is well aware of the importance and benefits of securing his place within the top eight, with a strong display, at the early possible stage.

“There are a lot of benefits of winning a medal early in the year,” he added.

“It puts a marker down to my rivals but also it could put me in the top eight and give me a seeding for the Olympics.

“If I can seal that early then I can relax and prepare properly for the Olympics.

“Chasing points late on in the year will have an effect on the body and so if I can guarantee a seeding early on in the year I can take some time off to make sure I’m fresh for the Olympics, that’s my ultimate aim.”

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