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Piontek snatches first rankings points on his road to Rio
- Updated: January 22, 2015
By Mark Etheridge
The Rio Olympics may be more than 18 months away but South Africa’s judoka are already getting to grips with the long qualifying road to Brazil.
A trio of the country’s top players trekked to Tunisia recently for the African Open tournament in the capital of Tunis.
They were spearheaded by Commonwealth U-90kg champion Zack Piontek and he was the only competitor to win a bout as well as a medal, bronze as it turns out.
He fought Hungarian Gabor Ver for the bronze medal and picked up some valuable IJF (International Judo Federation) points that will boost his chances of qualifying for Rio next year.
The North African event was the first official IJF event of the year.
Said Piontek on his return: ‘There were a good few countries from all around the world taking part, a very strong tournament. The reason for this was because there are various IJF tournaments where you can pick up points. A continental event like this one is where you can’t pick up too many points so I was surprised to see so many strong and diverse opponents.
‘It was a well supported tournament with good quality competition.’
Of his first fight against Aingeru Mendiola Izquieta he said: ‘It was a tough start but but I threw him for an ippon which was an important beginning and a good confidence booster.’
Next up was Morocco’s Imad Abdellaoui, a bout which he lost. ‘It was a really fought fight. I was busy winning after I had a yuko (the lowest point-scoring manoeuvre) and he had nothing. But near the end of the fight I attacked and I almost managed to throw him but he just managed to block it. After he blocked me I was in a weak floor position and he managed to get me in a hold for 20 seconds which gave him victory.
‘In all his other fights he messed with his opponents but that certainly wasn’t the case against me.
‘In my third fight against Canada (Robert Edward) I caught him “sleeping” early on and sorted him out, flat on his back with an ippon.’
That left the bronze medal fight against Ver. ‘It was back and forth the whole way. There were no points but he had two shido’s (penalties) against his name, meaning that once time was up I would have had the win.
‘But near the end I caught him in a hold and pinned him for the required 20sec which gave me ippon and bronze.’
So Piontek has successfully taken the first steps on his personal road to Rio. ‘I think I’ll need about 600 points to qualify directly. That’s why it’s very important to take part in as many tournaments as possible. But African Championships is worth 400 points for gold so that our best chance for big points.
‘The thing is you can’t just wait for that one big tournament because lets say something happens and I lose my first fight and am out! The last 12 months before the Games your best five scores count 100%.’
Next up for Piontek is a tournament in Morocco in March. ‘But before then myself and a few other judokas are going to Japan for a month or so of preparation for that event.’