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Team NI judo squad is ready to compete at Commonwealth Games, insists performance lead Ciaran Ward

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Team NI have named their judo squad for the upcoming Commonwealth Games

Team NI have named their judo squad for the upcoming Commonwealth Games

Team NI have named their judo squad for the upcoming Commonwealth Games

Performance lead Ciaran Ward believes Team NI’s judo squad is well served for the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in July after picking a mix of youth and experience.

There are 12 years between 33-year-old Nathon Burns, the oldest member of the squad, and 21-year-old Yasmin Javadian, with the rest of the team all in their 20s.

Burns is a twice Continental Open gold medallist and a European Cup Seniors gold winner, Javadian was a medallist at Under-21 and Under-23 level in the European Championships.

They are joined in the squad by Callum Nash, Joshua Green, Eoin Fleming, and Rachael and Sarah Hawkes for the trip to the West Midlands in a couple of months’ time where they will go in search of medals.

A tough qualification process led to a rigorous selection for the squad and Ward believes setting the standard so high will have them in a good place going into the event.

“We deliberately set the qualification performance standard that would be consistent with previous top-eight performances at Commonwealth Games, so we know they are in and around that kind of performance standard,” said Ward.

“On the day, if they give their best performance they should be sitting somewhere about there.

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“Our qualification period finished at the end of March. Because of Covid it was elongated from a two-year programme to essentially a three-year qualification programme, so to finally get seven across the line was good and now it is just about focussing towards the summer.

“The minimum standard we talked about around qualification was a Continental senior open medal and they have been all able to achieve that and more.

“We have some very experienced players there but it is largely a young team, this programme has been going five years now and most of the guys on it joined when they were 16 or 17, it is a sport where you typically peak in the late 20s or early 30s.

"It is a young programme, but it is great to have the more experienced players there like Eoin Fleming and Nathon Burns who have competed at the likes of the Commonwealth Games, the Europeans or the World Championships.

“It always helps that the senior players on the programme are the most dedicated, the most professional and they really set the culture for the group.”

Team NI have won four judo medals at previous Commonwealth Games and Ward is trying not to place too much extra pressure on this year’s event as he knows they will naturally rise to the occasion.

“When you are in this game as long as I am we know that all we can do is prepare people to give their best performance on the day and the Commonwealth Games will be no difference to any other competition in that regard,” he added.

“We know how to get people physically and physiologically in the best shape possible for an exact day to compete, and it is about getting them technically and psychological in the same place to be able to deliver their best.

“If we get the best performance from the seven athletes we will be absolutely thrilled, and if there are medals there, there are medals there.”

The lack of significant travel to compete in the event could also be a factor in the team’s success, something that Ward concedes could work in their favour in Birmingham.

“It is always a good advantage the closer to home you can compete, and we are not afforded that opportunity very much,” he continued.

"On the world tour we are literally all over the world – anything in Europe is a bonus for us. So to have something so close to home is great in terms of preparation, the tamper and the lead up into the Games.”


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