Olympics: Judo hope Colin Oates battle hardened by Ratho

Colin Oates fights on Sunday. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images
Colin Oates fights on Sunday. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images
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Olympic judo hope Colin Oates claims the daily scrap for survival in the bear pit of Ratho has made him ready for a medal tilt in Rio.

The 66kg prospect, 33, is one of two fighters from the Lothians base bound for the Games, joining fellow Commonwealth Games medallist Sally Conway in the fray next week.

It’s a return of investment, says Oates, on the set-up at the centre which, despite its success, is understood to be facing another wave of pressure to push its leading performers to British Judo’s HQ in Walsall.

But Oates, a quarter-finalist at London 2012, reckons the way the members of Ratho’s fight club have pushed each other on to reach this summer’s Olympics and Paralympics doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.

“Ratho’s been brilliant for me,” the Livingston-based fighter said. “Because when I moved here, the British Judo set-up was in a transition phase and there was going to be a focus on the younger athletes. Here, I’ve felt supported from Day One and it’s had a huge 
impact because the past four years have been the best of my career.

“So I’ll feel like I’m representing everyone in Ratho – the staff, the coaches, Euan Burton – who has helped me. It’s as important to me to give something back to the place as it is for me to get a medal.”

Oates will go for gold on Sunday with five wins standing between him and glory. But however loud the din, it won’t compare to London four years ago when he had to block out the noise.

“You could pick out individuals who were going crazy,” he confirmed. “They were so passionate for me to do well. That surpassed anything I’d imagined. The coaches, Kate Howey I remember, saying: ‘just you wait.’ I didn’t believe it but it blew me away and motivated me so much. As long as you don’t get overawed, that’s only going to help you rise to the challenge.”