Norfolk judoka Colin Oates on his hunger to make up for lingering London 2012 disappointment
- Credit: Archant
As thoughts turn to an Olympic summer in Rio de Janeiro, Colin Oates talks to Michael Bailey about his aim to kick on from his London legacy…
For a short period of London 2012, the name Colin Oates was on everyone's lips. The North Lopham judoka had beaten the number one seed and was in with a big chance to bag Team GB's first medal of their home Games.
He had already excelled. Just one day of competition, into the last eight – only to suffer defeat to a little-known Georgian who would go on to surprise the world with gold.
From the time of his life, Oates had to settled for a medal-less seventh. Four years on, there is the sense not of pride in his day at London – rather what might and perhaps should have been.
That says all you need to know about what is fuelling the 32-year-old for his summer in Rio de Janeiro.
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'One of the worst things about London was that I over-performed the expectations of people around me and maybe myself a little bit,' said Oates. 'I'd been embarrassed against the Mongolian boy a year earlier, and he was top seed. So to get past him I was really pleased and impressed.
'But I missed a golden opportunity to be amongst the medals. I look back a bit more disappointed than pleased with my performance that day because I didn't realise at the time the best level I could produce – it came at the Games, and I didn't take the realisation I was able to compete with those guys. It almost made me too reserved in that quarter-final fight.
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'I'd beaten everyone else left in the draw in the past, so all in all it was a real missed chance.
'What I've tried to do lately is use all that as motivation. I missed that chance – but I've got one now to put it right, and it doesn't matter how tough that day will be, you've got that chance you messed up last time. It's now a case of making sure this time, I don't walk away disappointed.'
Oates all but booked his place at Rio by matching the performance of GB rival Nathon Burns at the latest Grand Prix event in Turkey, and then made a big statement of intent at the European Championships on Thursday, claiming a career-best silver in Kazan, Russia.
So having travelled to Rio this year, Oates' cannot wait for his summer challenge.
'It looks like it's got a lot of work to go yet, but I think it's a lot of superficial work – Rio will be ready,' said the under-66kg player. 'There are little things you find helpful from these test events and training camps – but one thing we did get a nice sample of was the small crowd in the venue for the test event. About an eighth of the stadium was filled with Brazilians – and when there was a Brazilian on, it was loud. And that as only with a very small section of the stadium filled.
'Rio is the first time judo is actually going to be hosted at the park rather than somewhere else. It's the number one Olympic sport in Brazil, which I hadn't realised. So it's big for them and I'm hearing all sorts of crazy things – like the coaches are going to try to tailor the atmosphere so that if a player wants a lot of noise, they want the crowd to be louder. If they want the crowd more subdued, they are going to try to do that. If a coach wants quiet to speak to his player, they want to orchestrate that too.
'Whether they manage it, I have no idea. I think they'll have their work cut out – and not all the crowd will be Brazilian. But it's going to be loud – and it's going to be exciting. They'll have someone in every category – and the worst thing is, mine is decent.'
First things first, Oates wanted to build some form in Russia ahead of his quest for an Olympic medal – something he duly delivered.
'Just to reaffirm where I'm at, I wanted to put in a decent performance at a major championships,' added Oates. 'I had produced medals at other events since London but not at the Worlds or Europeans. So that was a really good opportunity to produce that performance on an intense day of competition.
'I still have an outside chance of grabbing a seeding spot for Rio too, but I'm not really worried about that or the qualifying. I was worried about trying to produce a performance at a key event in our year.'
And that goal for the Olympics?
'Apart from the obvious one?' he laughed. 'Clearly getting a medal is the target – but the thing with judo and all sport is you might not be good enough to win, might not be good enough to become Olympic champion. But as long as you delivered the best you could deliver, that makes the difference in your mentality – especially after the Games, because it's a big come-down.
'I got a quarter-final placing last time and I don't want the same again. I want either a medal or to get beaten convincingly, fighting well in the first fight. I don't want that disappointment of London again.'
• Follow Michael Bailey on Twitter @michaeljbailey