Judo club books nationals berth for 11 competitors

In just 12 short months, one of Penrith’s newest judo clubs has managed to book berths for 11 members at the Judo Federation of Australia National Championships to be held in Queensland this weekend.

Nationals competitors: The members of the Zoo Fitness judo team that will be travelling to the Gold Coast to take part in this weekend's national championships.

Nationals competitors: The members of the Zoo Fitness judo team that will be travelling to the Gold Coast to take part in this weekend's national championships.

Nine junior and two senior members of Zoo Fitness Judo will travel to the Gold Coast Sport and Leisure Centre in Carrara to compete over four days from June 9.

Junior members only took part in their first competition under the club banner in March, with nine of 11 white and yellow belt competitors walking away with gold medals.

“From that we had them try out for the state team, which they made,” coach Kylie Koenig said. “It was totally unexpected and unusual for the sport.”

Juniors Zavier Button, Blake Buckley, Nate and Ashley Ticehurst, Josh Weightman, Mia and Max Wozniak and Ryan and Josh Koenig will now compete at the nationals alongside seniors Chris Seymour and Nick Pearce.

The number of nationals competitors fielded by the the club can be attributed to the quality of instruction from club coaches and the dedication of the athletes.

Ms Koenig – a former Commonwealth champion –  started judo at the age of 12 at Penrith PCYC, becoming a national champion at 15. She was ranked 11th in the world in the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics before a knee reconstruction put her out of the competition, then becoming Commonweath Games coach for Australia in 2014 and the NSW women’s coach for the past five years.

Fellow coach Josh Cook is a world championship competitor, while Kiarn Kelly is a current Australian team member.

“The quality of the coaching in classes we have got here is very well respected within judo, all being international representatives,” Ms Koenig said. “All of us have trained extensively in Japan and Europe.” 

The club has blossomed since its inception last year, with up to 35 children attending classes for younger competitors through the week, Ms Koenig said.

“The kids’ classes have just exploded,” she said.

"The kids from this area are tough, and you have to be tough to do a combat sport. They don’t mind bumps and bruises.

“Judo teaches you discipline, respect, resilience and helps the kids with self esteem. In judo you get thrown seven times but you get back up eight.”

Adults and competitive children train Tuesday and Thursday nights at the club’s Mulgoa Road base, while beginners and other children’s classes are held Monday and Wednesday afternoons. Those interested in joining the club can contact Zoo Fitness on 4744-2020.

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