Colin Oates’ return to action after a winter break ended in defeat at the Paris Grand Slam, with the North Lopham-raised judoka admitting he was “a little rusty”.
Oates, battling for world ranking points as he bids to make the top eight seeds for the Rio Olympics, was beaten by 20-year-old Akil Gjakova in the second round.
The Kosovan won the under-66kg contest by throwing Oates for an Ippon in the final minute.
Oates, who finished fifth in Paris last year, and who had a bye in the first round, said: “It wasn’t one of my best weekends. I had a good break over the winter, and was feeling fresher than I did at the end of last year.
“But he’s a tough young boy, and I’m maybe a little rusty after the lay-off. But I’ve got a chance to pick up points in Germany in two weeks.”
Oates, 32, has not lost ground in the world rankings, where he lies 11th, despite the defeat. “The people who won the medals in Paris are not above me,” he said.
At the Dusseldorf Grand Prix 300 ranking points are on offer to the winner, and Oates is aiming to claim some of them.
“But it’s a funny sport. It can be an uphill battle even if you are seeded. One bad day and you’re down. One good day and everything is rosy.”
Oates is looking for a top eight place in the Rio rankings as history favours the seeded fighters.
“At the London Olympics in 2012, 75 per cent of the seeds made the quarter-finals,” he said.
“If you don’t make the top eight there is always the chance you will come up against one of the higher-ranked seeds in the first round, and that’s something you want to avoid.
“I have to be ambitious, so I’m targeting the top eight to make sure I’m seeded for the Olympics.”
Oates is well ahead of his nearest British rival, Nathan Burns, in the rankings, so is virtually assured - barring major disaster - of the one place at under-66kg the GB team is allowed in Rio.
Before the Paris Grand Slam Oates talked of the importance of getting points early in the year, and putting a marker down to his rivals. That is now the target for his next competition.
n Oates’ father’s North Lopham-based Kumo Judo club were celebrating the news Jonathan Drane will be fighting in the Paralympic Games in Brazil this summer, with the announcement on their member coming out just as the Express went to press.