City judoka Colin Oates eyes Games glory . . . for England

Colin Oates (Getty Images)
Colin Oates (Getty Images)
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Edinburgh judoka Colin Oates does not see himself as a spy in the enemy camp ahead of this summer’s Commonwealth Games.

The 30 year-old, brought up in North Lopham in Norfolk, has spent the past 18 months training on a daily basis alongside the Scotland squad at Ratho.

But Oates, seventh at the London Olympics, will be competing for Team England in Glasgow.

When the Scotland judo team is announced next month, it will feature several English-born judoka who have long been part of the Ratho set-up.

But Oates, whose Scottish girlfriend Samantha Clark has an outside chance of making the Scotland judo team, is quick to stress he never had any thoughts of switching allegiance.

“There are a few English players who will be competing for Scotland but they have been in the set-up here for quite a long time,” he points out.

“It was never my intention to change and I’m still very much English and looking to fight for them at the Commonwealth Games.

“I’m really looking forward to it. I train closely with James Millar and I was hoping he’d be in the Scotland team but I’m not sure he’s going to make it. I get on very well with him and he’s on the fringes of selection and we’ll find out next month if he makes it.

“The Games have not been mentioned too much at the moment. It’s a friendly environment and judo players tend to work like a family and help each other out.

“I do wonder when we get closer to the Games if I might get a bit of a slagging off but I should imagine it will all be friendly. When it comes down to fighting at the Games, there will certainly be a big rivalry.”

In his last competition in Glasgow – the European Open last October – Oates won the Under-66kg title and he has taken some noticeable scalps since competing at the last Olympics. He has beaten Olympic Champion Lasha Shavdatuashvili and also former double world champion Rishod Sobirov.

“It has helped my judo being up here. There is a strong set-up here and it is run really well and they have a great coaching staff in place,” Oates continues.

“It’s been a real help for me and my judo and has helped me progress. It’s given me another angle for my judo and pushed me on. One of the biggest bonuses is that where I used to train was quite a distance for me from home whereas now I live just 15 minutes from Ratho.

“After London 2012, there was a situation where they weren’t really sure what was going on with the performance centre in England. My girlfriend was Scottish anyway so it was a sensible choice for me to come up here both for judo and personal reasons.”

This month, Oates is out to underline his improvement by winning a medal at the European Championships which begin in Montpellier, France, on April 24. A bronze medallist in 2011, he is hoping to turn that into gold but is aware how stiff the competition will be.

“With my experience, I can’t go into any event believing I can’t win it. So gold has to be the target,” he stresses.

“I’ve been fighting pretty well but, in judo, you can fight well and still not get a result but over the last year I’ve had my best 12 months in the sport.”

Commonwealth gold is also a realistic target and he expects the atmosphere in Glasgow to rival the Olympics.

“Judo is quite a quiet sport when we travel to competitions but when it comes to a major event, all of that changes,” he states.

“In London, the crowd noise was ridiculous and I get the feeling that the passion at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, particularly when the Scots are fighting, will be just as strong.

“I was really shocked at the atmosphere in London and I’ll not be as taken aback this time. I’m sure it’ll be phenomenal.

“I just have to shut it out. We compete quite a few times over the year so you get used to just focusing on your fight and closing out the surroundings. We have a long-term aim for what we want to achieve but also that short-term focus for each individual fight.”