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Rio lessons driving Katz brothers on judo journey

4 May 2017

JUDO: They may have not got the results they wanted at Rio but the Katz brothers are beginning to reap the rewards from the unforgiving Olympic experience.

Nathan and Josh, who became Australia’s first brothers to compete in judo at the same Olympics for Australia, have spent recent months in Europe, Asia and Samoa recording promising results as they begin their long journey towards Tokyo 2020.

Older brother Nathan went within seconds of securing an opening bout win at Rio and despite it being difficult viewing admits watching the fight back shows him that he has what it takes to succeed at the highest level.

“It’s hard to watch but I know what could have been on that day,” Nathan said.

“It shows me what I’m capable of and to know that I’m able to fight at that level at my age is great.”

After six weeks on the sideline recovering from injury, Nathan got back on the mat and eventually landed in Europe. After training and fights in Austria, Portugal, France and Germany, he linked up with a professional team in Madrid where he competed in front of packed houses.

“We had teams of five and each member would have a fight and I won all four of my fights. There were a lot of Spanish national team fighters and internationals so it was a good level.

“Having been to an Olympics it’s not overwhelming fighting in front of massive crowds and you know you can go out there and perform without the massive pressure.”

After an operation younger brother Josh, who despite also going down in his opening fight competed in Rio at just 18, joined Nathan in Europe before heading home to ensure his Junior World Championships qualification.

“I missed a lot of junior tournaments last year so I came back to Australia and won two tournaments,” said Josh.

“It was good to see that I’m still number one and it should mean Junior Worlds qualification is now quite comfortable.”

Along with his older brother, Josh has just returned from Tonga where they both secured their third straight Oceania Championship to have them both sitting on the fringe of the world top 20 and ready for a massive year ahead.

“I have Nationals in June, then off to Europe where I will do three junior world tour events as I build towards to both the Senior and Junior World Championships,” Josh continued.

“I’ve been to World Championships before but this time round should be more comfortable having been to Rio.

“I’m really hoping for a medal or at least a top five at the Junior Worlds.”

As Josh does, Nathan has a busy few months ahead.

“I leave for Europe shortly and begin training before competing in the German league in May,” Nathan said.

“Then the focus turns to the World Championships in Budapest in August.”

While their attention is on the major events this year, the boys have already started planning their assault on a second Games campaign come 2020.

“When we got back into training we set our goals for this year, for the next two years and then for the four year Olympic cycle and everything is a stepping stone to the Tokyo Games,” said Nathan.

“The next year and a half will be building towards the qualifiers which begin in mid-late 2018.”

A tight-knit family if you’ve ever seen one, the brothers are extremely close to their mother Kerrye, who competed at the 1988 Seoul Olympics when judo was a demonstration sport, and their father Robert who was a coach back in 1988 as well as at Rio 2016.

This year they will be looking forward to a bit more master tutelage from their father in Europe.

“Dad is going to do a bit more national coaching now.

“He will come over for a few coaching blocks and it’ll definitely nice to have him there with us considering how long we are away from home during a year.”

The World Championships will be held from August 28 to September 3 in Budapest, Hungary. The Junior World Champions will then be contested from September 15-17 in Maribor, Slovenia.

Matt Bartolo

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