Sunday, January 3, 2010

Judo: Olympic spirit firing for judo squad.

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By Crystal Ja BEIJING, Aug 3 AAP - Olympic judo debutante Janelle Shepherd wears her heart on her sleeve - literally. Covering most of her left inside forearm is a tattoo with the Chinese inscription meaning "judo", while at the nape of the neck - just freshly healed - are the black ink rings of the Olympic symbol. The 23-year-old, who will compete at her first Games in Beijing, said it was one of the first things on her mind when she was announced on the Australian 13-person judo squad last month. "It was always my dream to be an Olympian, so I decided that just before I got on the plane I'd get the rings tattooed," she told AAP. "I only got it done about a week ago, so it's only just nearly healed." Traipsing to her local tattoo parlour at St Marys, in Sydney's far west, was one way for Shepherd to commemorate just how far she has come in the sport. With her strongly built 78kg-plus frame, Shepherd would look similarly at ease lifting weights at the Olympics, but came into judo on a whim at the age of seven. "My mum just wanted me to do a local sport and we went down to our local recreation centre and I saw a poster (for judo)," she said. "I went and started and I've loved it ever since." Asked what she liked about it, Shepherd simply said: "I like fighting." "It really gets you out there, it gives you mental strength and it keeps you fit." Shepherd is one of five possible medal contenders in the Australian team, which includes Olympic veterans Maria Pekli, her partner Daniel Kelly, and Slovakian-based heavyweight Semir Pepic. Having missed out on the Athens Olympics on rankings, Shepherd said it was a dream come true to have finally made it to a Games. "I've worked my whole life, 16 years to get here, so I'm just really proud," she said. "I'm just going to get out there and give it my best shot." Luckily for Shepherd, there will be plenty of mentors around to help the young judoka make the most out of her first Olympic showing. Former Hungarian Pekli will see her fifth Olympics in China and is a firm medal chance, never mind the fact that she is one of the oldest female contenders. "I'm the second, or the third oldest judo athlete and in my division I do have similarly older girls, but I do have a lot of younger ones," Pekli said. "We will draw a lot from our Olympic experience that the young girls won't have, but they will have the drive and the they-don't-care-about-anything kind of attitude, so it will be a very interesting mix." Her partner Kelly is also on track to step up onto the podium in Beijing, having steadily improved on his ninth placing in Sydney with a seventh in Athens. He said his Olympic ambitions had not eased with the passing years. "I'm a little bit older now, (but) I've wanted to go to the Olympics since I was eight years old - it was always my dream at a very young age and I'm just lucky it's happened really," he said. But when it came to taking work home, Kelly was forced to agree there was never any need for a judo match-up. "I'm the boss," his partner said with a laugh. The judo competition begins August 9. AAP cj/mo

Source Citation
"Judo: Olympic spirit firing for judo squad." AAP News 3 Aug. 2008. Popular Magazines. Web. 3 Jan. 2010. .

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