16 May 2014
The first thing he had to learn was not to feel pain.
It was during one of his first judo sparring matches that Victoria’s Dylan Anderson — a recent convert to the sport — felt a sharp twinge. He had broken his toe, and made it known to those around him.
His coach barely reacted. ‘Take a look at my feet,’ he eventually said, pointing towards a collection of oddly shaped — and angled — toes.
It’s a well-worn silencer for new recruits.
‘They’re tough people,’ Dylan, 18, says with a chuckle. ‘There’s definitely a ‘just get on with it’ mentality. Complaining doesn’t go down well.’
But apparently this ‘bruised and battered’ training group is what makes judo so appealing to Dylan, who admits it’s a far cry from his experience with Australian rules football and rowing. ‘It’s a tough beat,’ he says.
And so far it’s also been a successful one. Recruited last September as part of the AIS Sports Draft— a development program that fast-tracks talented athletes in sports offering medal potential — Dylan has surprised many with his lightening progress. At the recent Victorian Autumn competition he wrestled his way to the junior title and claimed second in the senior category.
For Dylan, however, he is taking it all in his stride. ‘I started rowing a couple of years ago, and while I started at the bottom I made my way up pretty quickly,’ he says when asked about the difficulty of switching sports.
‘I look at judo the same way. I’ve been dropped in the deep-end but I don’t worry about it. I know if I keep at it I’ll get better, and I’m happy with what I’ve achieved so far.’
Dylan is currently busy training six days a week, mastering the highly technical aspects of the sport, building fitness and adding strength. He has a clear set of goals mapped out and says the sport offers a fairly open field at the moment and that ‘anything could happen’.
And the Olympic Games in 2020?
‘I’m not really thinking too much about that at the moment,’ he says. ‘I’m just focused on learning the sport. It can take a long time to get to the highest level.
‘You see people who have been doing judo all their lives and they still have things they can improve on.’
But given Dylan’s progress to date, you sense he’s one to watch — broken toes and all.