Barbados’ top Judoka Asa Weithers is hoping to fulfil his boyhood dream of being an Olympian as he works hard towards qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics in Japan.
Weithers, currently in Budapest, Hungary, where he spent the last six days competing at the World Judo Championships for a chance to improve his ranking points and qualify for the Olympics is content with his overall performance.
“I have been training for this particular moment since I was small. I was on the mat rolling around and stuff. Actually, to see it materialise is an overwhelming experience and to share it with my dad is a dream come true,” Weithers told Barbados TODAY.
The 26-year-old who is coached by his father Ian Weithers, the coaching director of the Barbados Judo Association (BJA), competed in the 81kg category with 77 other competitors.
To reach the gold medal round competitors had to go through six to seven rounds. Despite losing in the second round, Weithers whose performance comprised great grips, attacks and movements on the mat was good enough for him to accumulate some points that would add to his current tally. That would determine if he meets the qualification quota.
Judo is a quota-based system done by points accumulated over the Olympic’s four-year cycle and that is how the ranking is worked. Therefore, Weithers will have to wait a week or two to find out whether he has qualified for his first-ever Olympics because it comes down to him and one other individual for the quota points.
Weithers has represented Barbados locally, regionally and internationally and is hoping to become the fourth Barbadian Judoka to attend the Olympics. Barry Jackman, Kyle Maxwell and Andrew Payne have so far gone down in history as the three Barbadians to represent the island at the Olympics.
Qualification for the Olympics closes on Tuesday, June 29th and the Barbados team is expected to be announced on Monday, July 5th.
Sharing what it was like competing against some of the world’s best in Hungary, Weithers explained: “It was a really good experience coming off from COVID and everything that has happened through this journey right now. In the actual contest itself, I was facing another left-handed opponent and I am also left-handed as well. So, I had some pretty comfortable exchanges where that was concerned. I was following the strategy that I had gone through before the actual contest.”
Given that he had a shorter time to prepare for competition because of the Coronavirus pandemic and also the ash fall from the volcano eruption in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Weithers said he was determined to give it his all.
“Judo went into lockdown and because it is a contact sport, it hasn’t opened up yet so we had to modify my training for this tournament in particular. We weren’t able to attend a number of others because of COVID protocols and also the volcanic activity. So, really and truly for this particular tournament, I had a much shorter time to prepare. Probably around two, three weeks to prepare for this particular tournament,” Weithers stated.
Irrespective of what happens in two weeks’ time when it will be announced whether Weithers has qualified or not, he is thankful to be afforded this opportunity to represent his country. He thanked the Barbados Olympic Association, his family, friends and well-wishers for their continued support.
Long time Olympic coach Ian Weithers has had the distinction of attending two Olympic Games in 2004 Athens and 2012 London.
Interestingly, 20-years ago Weithers travelled to Hungary to start his Olympic coaching career and fast forward two decades later his son is one of the products of that coaching.
A past president of the BJA, Weithers strongly believes that once the right systems are put in place, a Barbadian Judoka can do extremely well on the international stage.
“Barbadian judokas have the ability and the capability to excel. Our challenge has always been that we don’t have a broad base of athletes of a high level to which we could compete. If we look at some of the world champions that is what they have over us.
“We have to find a way to build this base. But I have been very happy because with each successive generation of athletes coming from Barbados they have performed better and better. We have come very close to Commonwealth medals, CAC and I believe that we are going to see a top Barbadian athlete from Judo,” Weithers said.