When Howard Oates watched his son take up the ancient art of judo at the age of five, the idea that the youngster would go on to become a Commonwealth champion and one of the world’s best players was a distant dream.

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But as Colin Oates picked up the gold at the Games in Glasgow, his proud father said the win was not just a victory for the 31-year-old but the whole family and North Lopham community which has supported him over the years on his incredible journey to success.

Mr Oates Snr, 61, originally encouraged his boy to take up the martial art while the family was living in London.

“I was a crown court clerk at Snaresbrook and was conscious of the drug problem in Romford every week,” he said.

“I thought as a father, the best way I can discourage them from going anywhere near drugs is to make them respect their bodies.

“If you’re heavily involved in sport, the last thing you’re going to do is to start using cannabis.”

As a long-time judo player himself, Mr Oates Snr could see his son immediately had a natural talent for the sport from a young age.

He won his first medal at the age of six and asked his mother Denise whether his dad would be proud of him.

“That is now a bit of an understatement,” said Mr Oates Snr after his son won gold by beating India’s Manjeet Nandal, Scotland’s James Millar and Cyprus’ Andreas 
Krassas on his way to Commonwealth glory.

Colin was so good that his father later formed his own judo club when they moved to North Lopham, near Diss, so he could become his personal coach.

“Many judo clubs were non-competitive but we needed something that centred on competition.

“The only way we could do it was to form our own club,” he said.

Colin’s brothers and sisters also trained at the club, with Mr Oates Snr taking them all around the European judo circuit.

That meant Colin had his brother David, now 33, as a judo partner throughout his youth – something Mr Oates Snr said has been crucial to his later success.

“Without David being there it would’ve been far, far harder,” he said.

“He had there a standing dummy he could practise things on.”

Although his siblings were also good players, it was Colin who stood out – but even then his eyes were only ever on a European cup medal.

But when he achieved that in 2005, Mr Oates Snr’s attentions started to turn to what his son could achieve next.

“It was a relief to see him win,” he said after travelling up to Scotland to watch his son at the Games.

“Colin’s success is our success. We all feel a part of it.

“We are the ones who have developed him over the past 20 years and got him where he is.”

Do you know a young sporting talent who is on the road to great things? Email newsdesk@archant.co.uk

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