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Piontek powers up the world rankings after fifth spot in Russia
- Updated: July 24, 2015
South African Commonwealth judo champion, Zack Piontek, has boosted his chances to compete at next year’s Olympic Games in Rio by finishing fifth in a Grand Slam Tournament in Tyumen, Russia.
By beating the African champion as well as Germany’s second best judoka at the tournament, Piontek gained 100 valuable points, which means that he improved his position on the international rankings for the under-90kg category by five positions.
To be able to qualify for the Games he needs to be among the top 22 judokas in his weight category. His latest success has seen him move up from 38th to 33rd spot.
Piontek’s coach, Nikola Filipov at Tuks/HPC, described his performance as ‘amazing’ and he can’t help wondering what would have happened if Piontek was not hampered by a bleeding nose during his fight against former junior world champion, Khusen Khalmurzaev (Russia).
According to Filipov, Piontek’s nose was bleeding so badly that the referee had to stop the fight on two occasions to allow the South African to receive medical attention.
‘I have no doubt that Zack would have contested for the bronze medal if it had not been for his bleeding nose. I am very proud of what he had achieved. People who understand judo will know how difficult it is to gain international ranking points at a Grand Slam Tournament. Zack earned 100 points. It is certainly one of the best performances by a South African judoka in an international tournament,’ the Tuks/HPC coach said.
Piontek admitted that his bleeding nose made it difficult for him to breathe properly during the fight, but otherwise he is satisfied with the way the tournament played out for him. ‘It was sweet revenge for me to beat Abderrahmane Benamadi (Algeria) in my first fight, because he was the one who prevented me from winning gold at the African Championships in April . In my second fight, which was against a former junior world champion from Russia, Kazbek Zankishiev, I was able to go the full distance. The reason why I lost was that I had two penalty points against me and he had only one. I won my third fight against Germany’s Aaron Hildebrand with an ippon.’
An ippon is awarded for a technique which is judged as decisive. It’s usually a move which connects cleanly, with good form and with little opportunity for the opponent to defend against it.
‘In my fourth fight, against Khusen Khalmurzaev, I again managed to go the full distance. In fact I was in the lead with only two penalty points against me while he had three, but then he managed to throw me with a yuko to win,’ Piontek said.
After the Tyumen tournament, the South African judoka has since gone on to attend a three-day Olympic training camp in Sochi, Russia.
Picture of Piontek, courtesy of Reg Caldecott