By Mark Etheridge
Team South Africa’s lone judoka for the London Olympics later this year has not been idle since his inclusion in the team a week ago.
Jacques van Zyl missed the gala team announcement in Johannesburg as he was jetting off to Russia on part of his Olympic preparations. This week however sees him having already returned home to South African and Tuesday found him back east, in Japan, home of judo.
“I had a three-day training camp in Russia where I had two training sessions a day of two and a half hours ÔÇô with lots of ‘randori’ or fights,” he told Road to London 2012.
“First day went great but I woke up on the second so stiff and when I got to training those Russians looked like they’d just come from holiday. They are so much more used to that sort of training than we are.”
While in Russia he got some invaluable training on the mat. “I had a good fight with one of my fellow Olympians, Rasul Bokiev of Tajikistan. He won bronze in Beijing so it was nice to have a roll with him!”
Next it was on to Japan for two weeks. “I’m in Japan at Tokai University, the same place that I trained for eight months in 2008. It’s very hard training here as well and this is also where the current world champion, Riki Nakaya of Japan, trains. I haven’t had a fight with him yet but then there are 100 guys on the mat here ever night. It’s amazing to see what the sport of judo means in this country.”
Speaking of his naming in the South African team for London and the Pretoria based grappler said: “When it was officially announced that I would be part of the team going to London, it was truly a dream come true for me. Its like that thing you dream of since you are a little boy has finally come true for me, words cannot explain the feeling!
“I’m so honoured to be representing my country at the biggest sport event in the worldÔÇª against the best guys in the world! I’m really looking forward to the experience, and just want to thank SASCOC for making me a part of this and also helping me prepare for the Games.”
After his two week stint in Japan, Van Zyl will head home for a week before heading north to Barcelona, Spain, for another week-long training camp.