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SA judo duo take on the world in Kazakhstan
- Updated: August 21, 2015
By Mark Etheridge
Judoka Zack Piontek and Siyabulela Mabulu will not only be looking to win more medals at a global event but also try and improve their chances of getting to the 2016 Rio Olympics at next week’s World Judo Championships.
The two get to grips with the world’s best grapplers at the World Championships in the Kazakh capital, the first time the world championships has come to that country. Piontek was already in Astana early last week while Mabulu headed east on Friday night.
The week-long competition will see more than 800 fighters in action over seven different weight divisions with 137 countries coming to the party at the Ice Palace venue (pictured above).
Both Piontek and Mabulu won medals for SA at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, the former winning gold in the -90kg division and the latter bronze in the -66kg bracket.
Piontek, who is named after Vetkoek Paleis soapie star character Zack du Plessis, told Road to Rio 2016: ‘The World Championships are obviously the biggest judo event of this year and the event where one can win the most ranking point.
‘So that means all the best are going to be there and competition is going to be really tough.
‘My preparation was the Tyumen Grandslam in Russia [he ended fifth in his category] and a two-week training camp in Russia. Then it was just a question of touching up on a few things back in South Africa and now I’m right for the tournament.
‘My form is good and I’m feeling well prepared. My goal is to win two fights and anything more at this level will be a bonus.’
An interesting statistic that emerged after Tyumen is that Piontek is one of just eight African judoka to place fifth or higher at a Grand Slam event.’
Since his Commonwealth gold Piontek has had a good run of international form, ending third in the African Open in Mauritius late last year, then third again at the 2015 African Open in Tunisia to start his year off, seventh in the next African Open in Gabon (March) and then second in the African Championships in Gabon in April.
As for Mabulu, the Port Elizabeth based player is looking forward to his latest international trip. ‘In preparation I’ve done different programmes at the Eastern Cape Academy, also with the national judo side.
‘We’ve prepared for the last two months and progress has been good,’ he told Road to Rio 2016. The SA championships in Stellenbosch show that the training is working for me… I won gold.
‘At the last world championships in Brazil I won three fights now I want to win the group stage because Zack’s fifth place at the last big international has motivated me to try and get to the Rio Olympics next year.’
Mabulu’s gym coach in PE is Jason le Roux while his judo coach is Enoch Screech.