NOT many Olympic athletes heading to the London 2012 Games can claim to have built their sporting careers with their bare hands.
But that is exactly what British judo prospect Colin Oates has done as he prepares to fight for gold on Sunday in the men’s under-66kg category.
With dad Howard, brother David and members of Lopham Judo Club, Oates built a judo arena — known as a dojo — in his father’s back garden in which to train.
“For a long time I was training with my brother and dad in the back garden in what was pretty much a big shed.” said Oates, of Lopham, near Diss. “Because judo is an Olympic sport it’s always the ultimate target for a judo player and what you aspire to — we built it with aspirations of that.”
Having concentrated on his education to go off to university and get a degree — something encouraged by his dad — Oates returned to Lopham at the end of his studies to begin his bid to reach the Olympics.
The dojo was constructed during his final year at university, and after nearly a decade the 29-year-old will swap his humble surroundings for the 10,000-seater judo arena based at London’s ExCeL Centre.
But one thing that won’t change is his dad being by his side, with Howard – who has coached his son since the age of 12 – set to be joined by the biggest gathering of the Oates family ever to watch Colin compete.
“He’s put a lot of time and effort into helping me,” added Oates. “And with the money he’s invested into me and judo, he’d probably be a millionaire by now if he hadn’t done that. He will give me the inspiration to really go for it.”