Judoka wants Olympic qualification for the sport's future in Samoa
William Tai Tin wants to qualify for the Olympics in judo not just for himself, but for the future of the sport in Samoa.
The Melbourne-based 34-year-old, who is from Siumu and Manono, is touring Europe competing in International Judo Federation (I.J.F.) events to try and earn enough qualifying points to make it to the 2020 Olympics in July.
"I am trying to leave a mark for our country, we deserve to be here and our young people can get here too,” he said.
“It’s easy to lose ourselves in the other sports that we’re naturally gifted at, like rugby, because it is our pride and our passion, but there’s other sports that we are quite good at, we just don’t put any focus on it. I’ve seen in the time I’ve been in Samoa, that there are kids there who are developing, they just don’t have the opportunity or the pathway to be able to get out here on the world stage.”
Having competed in Paris, France and Oberwart, Austria over the last two weekends, Tai Tin is flying to Germany for the Dusseldorf Grand Slam, before he heads to Poland for the Warsaw European Open next week.
He said the past couple of weeks have been enjoyable but gruelling, and he is expecting more of the same to come:
“It’s another world over here, this is my first time on the European circuit.
“So many of the countries over here live and breathe the sport as well, so it’s very different for us from back home in Samoa and for me where I reside in Melbourne. We train, but not to the extent of what it’s like over here.
“Because we’re fighting at the highest level here, they are all pro athletes, some of them probably hold down jobs as well but there’ll be a small number of them who are probably fully-funded by their own federations.”
Tai Tin on the other hand is self-funded, and said he is lucky to have left for Europe with the blessing of “understanding” employers.
He also has a family in Melbourne with two children.
“They understand as well that their Dad’s trying to get to a certain point, and trying to do the best he can for Samoa,” Tai Tin said.
“And they’re proud of that as well, so that kinda drives me on.”
The prospect of competing at an Olympics in Japan is strong motivation as well.
“I guess judo’s finally going back home after so long,” Tai Tin said.
If he qualifies, the Olympics would be the Samoan’s third trip to Japan in short order, after he competed at the I.J.F. World Championships there in September 2019 and the Osaka Grand Slam in November.
“I’ll be travelling again in April, potentially I’ll be in Turkey for a Grand Prix event at the start of April, and then there’s the Asia-Pacific Championships which is the last major event for our region, that’s in Mongolia in mid-April,” Tai Tin said.
Also competing at the four events in Europe is Samoan judoka Peniamina Percival.
“It’s always good to go with the boys, and even all the Oceania crew who are over here as well,” Tai Tin said.
“We try keep together as much as possible, because it is a daunting environment to be in.
“Regardless of the results, we’re there for each other when we come off the mat.”