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Piontek takes silver in Tunisia to take another step closer to Rio
- Updated: April 9, 2016
By Mark Etheridge
A silver medal at the African Championships in Tunisia on Friday has surely all but sealed judoka Zack Piontek’s place in Team South Africa for the Rio Olympics later this year.
Selection is dependent on all criteria being met and with SASCOC having the final approval but Piontek’s placing in Tunisia would seem to have earned him enough ranking points before the 30 May cut-off date.
Piontek’s first fight saw him taking on Ghana’s Victor Ahiavor in Pool C of the -90kg division where he dominated and first threw him for waza-ari and then finally pinned him for a match-winning ippon score.
‘My plan was to win a medal here, any medal, and I ended up with silver,’ Piontek told Road to Rio 2016 from the north African country.
‘I desperately wanted that gold but my opponent was just better on the day.
There were just 13 players in Piontek’s category, as he said ‘no room for amateurs.’
In his second fight Piontek came up against another Egypt’s Hatem Abd El Akher and it was a totally different kettle of fish for the 2014 Commonwealth gold medallist.
‘It was a really tough fight. That guy was 2013 and 2014 African champion and was then out injured. He started competing again near the end of last year. I threw him twice, first with a waza-ari and then a little yuko [the lowest scoring throw]. But then in the last 30sec he got me with a waza-ari.
‘We fought for the full five minutes and then I got the win with the most number of points. It was a really nice win for me as I last fought him in 2013 and he beat me then. So today was payback time.’
The final saw Piontek pitting himself against Algerian expert Abderrahmane Benamadi. ‘I’ve fought him on a number of occasions and he has won most of them. On this occasion he came with a good tactic and blocked me well all fight.
‘There was a moment of hope for me when he attempted a weak groundwork move and I almost caught him with a technique of my own. But he escaped and there were just seven seconds left.’
But Piontek will return to Pretoria a happy man. ‘All in all I’m very happy and I think I have enough points to qualify for Rio. I’ll know 100% for sure on 30 May.’
Current Olympic rankings in the 90kg division show Piontek at 28th spot and provisionally qualified but uncertainty exists as to whether Friday’s result has already been taken into account. Countries are only allowed one competitor per age group which will mean Piontek would move substantially upwards when the final rankings are made.