Judo: Sponsor sets up Volante for first foreign mission

Tony Crolla with Valentino Volante
Tony Crolla with Valentino Volante
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Rising Edinburgh judo star Valentino Volante is celebrating a new sponsorship deal coming on the back of his inclusion in the Great Britain squad for the European Cup competition in Portugal later this month.

The current British and Scottish Open Champion, 15, will – in just under two weeks – undertake his biggest challenge since he entered the judo arena aged just three. A competition he is relishing, Valentino’s induction into the national set-up is a moment he doesn’t want to let slip by without making a positive contribution “It’s a big tester for British judo, so it will be interesting to see how we do out there.” Valentino said. “It will be my first time representing Great Britain, so I’m really looking forward to competing. It is a big achievement personally, so it’s another step towards reaching my final goals. It would be nice to win a medal but, in saying that, I’ve not fought out of Britain before. But I would like to go out there and leave my mark at the very least.”

Valentino is expecting an unknown quantity as he prepares to do battle with some of Europe’s finest. Not only is the opportunity of coming face-to-face with a talented pool of judo players one that enthrals, travelling to the Portuguese city of Coimbra, home to one of the world’s oldest universities, also offers just as much an attraction. His first duel on foreign soil is an occasion he has eagerly awaited.

“As I’ve got older, the competition has got a lot harder and I’m now competing across the country and in England,” he said. “When you’re A little bit younger, the furthest you would travel for competitions was Glasgow, so this will be something I’ve never experienced before. But to go abroad to represent my country is something I can’t wait to do, so I’ll be giving it my best shot.”

The under-90 kilogram category fighter, who trains with the Edinburgh Judo Club, has also been boosted by a sponsorship agreement with Dalkeith-based Italian restaurant, the Cavaliere, a decision the owners reached after the teenager became a regular customer with his father on Friday evenings.

So he was hugely grateful when learning of their interest to provide additional support to aid his development.

Valentino said: “They are going to provide me with sports equipment and some training gear, and we’ve discussed getting some other things in exclusively for the Edinburgh Judo club as well, although that has yet to be finalised. So it’s great to have some backing, which will be a great help.”

An intense training schedule pitches Valentino through a hugely demanding timetable, which will see him in action up to five days per week. However, he feels overwhelmingly content to be training with an organisation he feels can continue to nurture his skills to the level he desires.

“I love the physicality of it and enjoyed this from an early age. It’s a lot different from other sports where you’re wrestling and grappling with your opponent, which I really like and has kept me going for a number of years. I have been with the Edinburgh Judo Club since I started and the club is really strong with hundreds of members at all ages. It’s a great place to be.

“My ultimate goal is to one day compete in the Olympics, because I think that is the greatest success you can have. In the meantime, I would like to keep on training as hard as I can and win as many tournaments and competitions.”

Asked about the possibility of competing at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in two years’ time, a few months short of his 18th birthday, the youngster admitted his mind has already fast forwarded and taken him on that glittering journey. He added: “It would just be great and it’s certainly a realistic goal.

“I just want to compete at the highest level I can. I might also look into the coaching side of things, but we’ll see what happens.”