COLIN Oates provided London’s ExCeL Centre with a champagne moment, but his Olympic campaign did not end with a medal around his neck, writes Derek Bish.
The 29-year-old, from North Lopham, near Diss, dramatically saw off former world champion Tsagaanbaatar Khashbaatar on his way to the quarter-finals of the men’s under-66kg judo event.
However, defeats to Georgia’s Lasha Shavdatuashvili in the last eight and the South Korea’s Cho Jun-Ho in the repechage saw his hopes of a medal disappear.
From the moment he entered the near-10,000 capacity ExCeL Centre, it was clear the British crowd would be behind Oates as cries of ‘Colin, Colin’ rang out around the arena.
With 86-year-old grandmother Kath in support, Oates’ second round contest – having received a bye through the opening round – began with a convincing defeat of Australia’s Ivo dos Santos.
The Norfolk ace – looking to build on last year’s European Championships bronze medal – was on the front foot from the off, going close to a yuko, the lowest level of scoring in judo, two minutes into the five-minute contest.
Dos Santos was so much on the backfoot that a penalty point – two of which make up a yuko – was awarded against the Australian for being too negative, but the match remained scoreless going into the final 60 seconds.
However, a second penalty point gave Oates the advantage and the Brit followed it up with another yuko score just seconds later to book his place in the last 16 against Khashbaatar.
Oates’ round of 16 encounter with the Mongolian was somewhat different to that of his opening clash as he bided his time, searching for an opening against one of the favourites for the gold medal.
Khashbaatar – a veteran of three Games – could not find a way through against Olympic debutant Oates.
And Oates seized his chance with less than 10 seconds remaining, counter-attacking the Mongolian and dumping him on to his side to earn a yuko score, which put him through to the last eight.
With the home crowd dreaming of a first men’s judo gold at an Olympics since 1992, Oates was on top at the very beginning of his cagey quarter-final contest with Shavdatuashvili.
Oates was soon on the defensive though, particularly on the ground, as the Georgian tried to find a way through — but it went to an additional three minutes of sudden death judo, known as ‘golden score’ time, with the first scoring move a victorious one.
To the disappointment of Oates and all of Norfolk, it was eventual gold medallist Shavdatuashvili who got the winning move, maintaining a hold that lasted the required 15 seconds to end Oates’ quest for gold.
He still had a chance to get bronze by coming through a repechage against fellow losing quarter-finalist Cho Jun-Ho, who had been controversially defeated in his last eight encounter by reigning world champion Ebinuma Masashi, of Japan.
But it was to be the end of Oates’ quest for Olympic success as two yukos — the first from two penalty points — handed the South Korean victory.
Oates tried to score late on, with Cho denying him a desperate move 15 seconds from the end, and North Lopham’s finest bowed out to a standing ovation from a vociferous British crowd.