Sport

Man Mountain: The Forces Judo Giant Setting Sights On The Olympics

Giant forces judo fighter Corporal Andrew Melbourne is hoping 2018 will become the start of his road to the Tokyo Olympics...

Giant forces judo fighter Corporal Andrew Melbourne is hoping 2018 will become the start of his road to the Tokyo Olympics.

The RAF Police man won his first national title earlier this month, making him the UK's judo champion in the 100kg+ category.

Towering at 6ft 5in and tipping the scales at 20 stone, Cpl Melbourne is without doubt one of the biggest forces athletes.

British military judoka Andrew Melbourne

The RAF Odiham-based man-mountain, an intimidating figure on the judo mat, recently celebrated his best victory to date after taking gold at the national British Judo Championships in Sheffield.

He said: "I brought a lot of physicality with my size and stature.

"[In] my first fight I flew at my opponent, which set the standard for the rest of the day. Everyone was a bit cagey about coming out and trying to get one over on me."

Cpl Melbourne's win could prove decisive in his sporting career, having seen off one particular rival, Neil Schofield, who he had never beaten before in competition, on his way to top spot. The forces man said:

"It hasn't sunk in yet. I'm sure it will eventually but... I just can't stop smiling [at the moment]."

Three years ago a bronze medal in the same tournament meant Cpl Melbourne, who has also represented the RAF Police in rugby union, was given Elite Athlete status by the RAF.

Training out of the successful Surrey-based Camberley Judo Club full-time is now seeing him reap rewards, and he's setting his sights on the biggest prize of all. He said:

"The ultimate goal is to try and get to Tokyo 2020, but that's long-term, [while] medium-term we're looking at European and World medals on the international circuit."

Short-term, though, he's looking towards more success at national level in the Scottish Open later this month, before travelling to Belgium for more competition in February.

British military judoka Andrew Melbourne

With its roots in unarmed combat, judo has proved a popular sport in the military community. 

Cpl Melbourne has been joined at Camberley by fellow RAF man Tom Mercer, with the pair using their forces backgrounds to their advantage in the dojo. Cpl Melbourne said:

"We do bring a little bit more discipline into the sport - which is very highly disciplined already."

"We're training with a lot of young individuals here, in their early 20s and teenagers as well.

"When we're abroad [we can bring] a little bit more [of an] experienced mindset... It just allows them [less experienced fighters] to be more calm, more confident [and] focus on their judo."

Under the tutelage of one of the UK's leading coaches, Luke Preston, the giant RAF 'judoka' is beginning to thrive.

Camberley Judo Club head coach Luke Preston

Having guided other athletes to podium places at the London Olympics and the Commonwealth Games, Camberley head coach Preston now believes the military man is on course to fulfil his enormous potential:

"He's been very close to gold before but to do it and to beat everyone easily, I'd say he did really well.

"He's getting the fruits of his labour now. He was always a good athlete [but] he's a better athlete now.

"In terms of judo, he's worked really hard... His timing and his accuracy [are now making the difference]."

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