Commonwealth Games: "Nicked-up" judokas getting comfy

By Kris Shannon

Judoka Ryan Dill-Russell. Photo / Greg Bowker
Judoka Ryan Dill-Russell. Photo / Greg Bowker

If the Kiwi judokas are aiming to "cut weight" before their competition, they don't have far to look to find tips.

All over the athletes' village in Glasgow, weightlifters, boxers and wrestlers are either bulking up or slimming down in a bid to make their respective weight classes.

That means, unlike being alone at judo events, the New Zealanders are able to enjoy the communal spirit on offer at the Commonwealth Games, with dietary requirements are one benefit of being part of a larger team.

It's the same for all manner of minor sports at these Games - athletes who would previously never register a blip on Valerie Adams' radar can approach her for advice, a situation the flag bearer said she welcomed.

Then there's the availability of doctors and massage therapists, the elite coaching in the high-performance centre within the Kiwi quarters at the village, and even little things like free food and drink.

It makes for quite a departure for athletes all too familiar with struggling to make ends meet while on the road pursuing their passion.

So instead of waging a one-man war to make weight the day before a big event, those judokas are finding company in all that misery.

"You start questioning people's meals and, when you see people eating similar things to you, you think, 'Yeah, that must be a a wrestler or weightlifter'," said Ryan Dill-Russell. "My weight's fine but Ivica [Pavlinic] cuts a bit of weight, so he'll be sharing tips and secrets with the other guys."

One of those tips, says Pavlinic, is pretty straightforward.

"Don't eat," he said. "It's really just about managing it. I'm probably going to have to sauna off two kilos on the last day but it's just part of the sport."

Another part of belonging to a fringe sport is the long time spent away from home, chasing ranking points and prize money in competitions completely foreign to the average Kiwi.

The Commonwealth Games is somewhat more familiar and, says Pavlinic, a real slice of New Zealand can be found in the athletes' village.

"When you're constantly based overseas, you miss home, and this just feels like home - there's so many Kiwis around.

"There is a little bit of expectation and pressure because of that, that we don't normally get at other events. But it's also good - I'm not used to this," he said, gesturing to the captive press pack.

As well as camaraderie while outside the lines, there exists true advantages when it comes to competition. Judo is one of the more rugged pursuits at these Games, with injuries an equal part of the sport of the judogi.

In fact, Dill-Russell said the New Zealand team were already "nicked up" before they arrived in Glasgow, meaning the medical assistance available was treasured.

"I've seen physios every day and having massages and really making the most of it. Having that around us, we're not used to that.

"It's brilliant and it's encouraging for us."

- NZ Herald

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