Whanganui heavyweight judo sensation Keightley Watson has his eyes firmly on a world title after nearly a lifetime of preparation.
The 17-year-old Year 12 Whanganui High School student stopped over in Australia on his way home from his third spell at training camp in the Netherlands this year to grab three medals at the Sydney International on Sunday.
While the New Zealand nationals are yet to come, Watson's focus is firmly on the World Junior Championships in the Bahamas next month where he will be among the youngest and fighting 18 to 21-year-olds. And while he weighs in at 153kg, he is not likely to be the heaviest junior.
Regular trips to training camps in the Netherlands under Grim Vuijsters has been invaluable and is set to continue win, lose or draw in the Bahamas. Vuijsters is a fourth dan black belt who has won nine World Cup medals and is one of the few judokas on the planet to defeat 10-time world heavyweight and two-time Olympic champion Teddy Riner of France.
"Ultimately I would love to win a world title, they are ranked higher than Olympic gold," Watson said.
"I do get a chance at the World Juniors in the Bahamas and my goal is to make the semifinals and finals and take it from there. I am at the younger end of the divisions and still have fours years in juniors, so plenty of time. I am learning heaps in the Netherlands and there is heaps more to learn, I can't wait to go back."
Watson is in great form coming back from Sydney with three podium finishes. He took gold in the cadets plus 90kg division then silver in the junior men's plus 100kg, then later in the day silver in the senior men's +100kg division.
The long day of fighting started at 9am and ended at 5.30pm in the seniors Mens +100kg final, combined with the long-haul flights back from the Netherlands 48 hours prior started to take its toll on the energy levels towards the end of the day.
"He did not have much left in the tank," father Ross Watson said.
With little time for rest as he now prepares for the International Judo Federation World Junior Championships tournament representing New Zealand in the Bahamas Nassau in 22 days' time.
The tournament so far will have 24 heavyweights competing in the plus 100kg division from 18 countries and with entries yet to close will be a baptism of fire.
On his arrival back from the Bahamas his turn around time will be three days before the New Zealand Championships in Christchurch where he aims to take out three titles, the Cadet Men +81kg, Junior Men's and Senior Men's + 100kg. He is currently ranked number 1 in New Zealand in all three divisions.
Watson gets no rest in November when he represents New Zealand again in the Perth Oceania Open where he can gain more international ranking points.
Then Watson can earn some well-deserved rest after a year that he has fought and trained around the globe. He will then prepare for next year which is already shaping up to be bigger than this year.
Next year's travels for Watson will be made much easier now as he has been given sponsorship from Kathmandu that includes the latest travel luggage.
Whanganui store manager Michelle Schimanski said Kathmandu were more than happy to give Watson a hand on his climb to the top.
"We are happy to help Keightley on his way to the top. It's great to see someone of his age go right through the ranks," Schimanski said.