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The battle for Olympic judo medals will be brutal, says Lincolnshire's Barry Cooper

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: December 27, 2011

  • Ambition: Barry Cooper

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Former British champion Barry Cooper runs the Lincoln Judo Academy in Branston. His goal is to guide one of his players to an Olympic Games...

I'm looking forward to next year's Olympics London and I'm hoping to secure some tickets to watch the judo events.

As well as running the Lincoln Judo Academy in Branston, I'm also a cabbie in London.

So naturally I'll be very busy during the Games, but I'll take days off for the judo events.

But, for me, every Olympics Games is also tarnished with sadness.

My brother Stephen was due compete at the Seoul Games of 1988, but died two days before he was due to leave for South Korea.

Since Stephen passed away, I've made it my ambition to coach someone to an Olympic Games.

London 2012 will come too soon for my players, but we've got some very promising youngsters at the academy, which has around 130 members, making it one of the biggest clubs in the country.

My son, also called Stephen, who is ten, is very promising and has already won lots of titles.

He's a very good judo player, but we have lots of other exciting youngsters as well.

Unfortunately I don't think the Great Britain judo team will produce many medal winners at London 2012.

Why is that? Well, in my opinion, the sport has been watered down by the authorities.

Nowadays, you cannot ask a child to give you 100 press-ups or point things out to them in front of the class.

But I think the kids would benefit and enjoy that, I certainly did when I was learning the sport.

I expect the likes of Japan, South Korea and Uzbekistan to be vying for the medals while France are also very strong.

Britain's brightest hope is Ashley McKenzie, who we at the Academy have close links with.

He is in the 60kgs weight category, which will be one of the strongest at the Games so winning a medal will be extremely tough for him.

However, at the age of 22 time is very much on his side and when the 2016 Olympics in Rio comes around, he should be at his peak.

You generally reach your peak in judo between the ages of 26 and 30, although there are some very talented players in their late 30s.

A top judo player like Ashley will spend around 10 hours a day training.

They'll start the day by going on a run, followed by some rest.

Then they'll spend up to six hours of what is known as uchikomi, which is basically judo's version of shadow boxing.

They'll mimic throws and moves and watching someone like Ashley in action is very impressive. It's like a blur.

After that he'll hone his skills with some actual judo, so a lot of hard work is involved to reach the top of the sport.

Unfortunately Ashley doesn't get the funding and support I believe he deserves.

At our Academy we have raised some money for him to help with his training and travel, but it's a shame it has to come to that.

If he was Japanese, he would be treated like a god and funding wouldn't be an issue.

But whatever your level is, it's a lovely sport to be involved with.

If you would like to give judo a try, give me call on 07956 635659 or log on to coopersjudoclub.co.uk

Barry Cooper was talking to Mark Whiley.

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