Judo’s Oceania Championships are scheduled to get underway tomorrow in Nouméa, New Caledonia, where vital points will be on offer towards Rio 2016 qualification.
The three-day event, scheduled to take place at the Arena de Paita, concludes with a Kata Open and Veterans Open on Sunday (April 12).
Male judokas in each of the seven weight categories are chasing quota spots awarded to the top 22 athletes in the International Judo Federation (IJF) world rankings, as of May 30, 2016.
The 22 men will qualify directly, with a maximum of one athlete per nation per weight category, as well as 14 women under the same conditions.
An additional 100 athletes will qualify based on continental representation, of which seven males and three females will be from the Oceania region.
Much is expected of New Zealand at the Oceania Championships, where the country has a total of 34 judokas competing, including eight Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games medallists.
Moira De Villiers and Adrian Leat, silver medallists in the women’s under 70 kilogram and men’s under 73kg categories respectively, are joined by men’s under 100kg bronze medallist Jason Koster, while fifth-placed finishers Darcina Manuel, in the women’s 57kg, and Ryan Dill-Russell, in the men’s under 90kg, also feature.
De Villiers and Koster will be looking to build on their success at last month’s three-legged competition circuit in South America.
At the Continental Open in Argentina, Koster won silver and De Villiers bronze, after both had placed third at the Pan American Open in Uruguay.
Prior to these two events, De Villiers claimed silver and Koster bronze at the Pan American Open in Chile.
New Zealand is aiming to send up to five judokas to the Rio 2016, which would mark a significant improvement on London 2012, where De Villiers was the country’s sole representative.
A number of New Zealanders are currently ranked in the top 30 of their respective weight classes, with De Villiers placed 18th in the world, Koster 19th, Ivica Pavlinic 22nd, and Manuel and Dill-Russell 24th.
Following the Oceania Championships, three high profile names from the judo will hold a four-day training camp.
France’s Lucie Décosse, the London 2012 Olympic champion in the women’s under 70kg category, will be joined by compatriot Larbi Benboudaoud, the 1999 world champion in the men’s under 66kg class, and Japan’s Noriko Mizoguchi, the Barcelona 1992 silver medallist in the women’s under 52kg category.A live feed of the action in Nouméa can be accessed by clicking here.