Le Grand chance for judo star

By HUGH KEARNEY

BLACK belt judo champion Julien Le Grand will head to Japan today for the biggest contest of his life.

The 15-year-old Tweed athlete - the current Australian under-16 heavy middleweight champion and reputedly the youngest Australian judoka to achieve a first dan black belt - will do battle with the cream of the world's junior judo exponents in the Osaka International Judo Championships.

Le Grand will compete in the 16-and-under age division against opponents from 17 nations including hosts Japan where the sport is compulsory in some schools.

"I'm not nervous about the competition, in fact I am looking forward to meeting the best in the world," Le Grand said."I have done everything possible to prepare so I just have to do my best and hope things go my way."

Le Grand will be accompanied to Japan by his father and coach, Alain, a level four instructor who will referee at the championships.

Alain Le Grand, who coaches Julien at the Tsunami Judo Club in Piggabeen, believes his son has a strong chance at the titles.

"Julien has been doing judo since he was four, and I think his speed and strength especially on the floor could be an advantage," he said.

Le Grand, an A-level student at Tweed River High School (TRHS), will stay on in Japan after the championships for three weeks of intensive training with Japanese judo masters.

The lessons will come in handy for the young national champion next year when TRHS hosts the Australian Judo titles in July. The titles will be staged in the school's new gymnasium which is soon to be opened officially.

Even though Le Grand to miss four weeks of school, his teachers have backed the trip.

TRHS relieving deputy principal Cathy Dickson said the Year 11 student was brilliant academically and had prepared well for the trip.

"He is, quite simply, a great student and a gifted musician who is advanced for his age and is weeks ahead in everything," Dickson said.



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