Olympic Judokas Ready for Games in Birthplace of Judo

The Australian Olympic Committee has named Aoife Coughlan and Katharina Haecker as the two judokas in the Australian Olympic Team for Tokyo.

With Judo founded in Japan, the two fighters will return to the spiritual birthplace of the sport, and will compete in Nippon Budokan – the same venue Judo made its Olympic debut in 1964.

Rio Olympian Haecker returns for her second Games, competing in the -63kg division, with the history making judoka Australia’s first ever medallist on the International Judo Federation Grand Slam Series in 2018 and the first Australian to win a Judo Grand Prix gold medal in 2020 in Tel Aviv.

Coughlan makes her Olympic debut in the -70kg division, off the back of a bronze in the recent Asia-Oceania Championships and a top-eight finish in the World Championships.

The team will be coached by national head coach Daniel Kelly, the first Australian judoka to compete at four Olympics (2000-2012).

Chef de Mission of the Australian Olympic Team Ian Chesterman welcomed the athletes to the Australian Olympic Team.

“Congratulations to Aoife on making her Olympic debut and Katharina on her return to the Australian Olympic Team for her second Games,” Mr Chesterman said.

“Competing in the birthplace of the sport, in the same venue that hosted the Olympic debut back in 1964 will provide a special experience for our Australian judokas. I know they will represent Australia with pride.

“While both Aoife and Katharina are training and competing overseas, I’m sure their family, friends, teammates, coaches, supporters and everyone at Judo Australia is celebrating this Olympic milestone.

“Thank you to everyone at Judo Australia for your ongoing support of all your athletes and helping Aoife and Katharina be ready to compete on the world’s biggest sporting stage.”

Haecker was thrilled to return to the Olympic arena in the home of her sport.

“I‘m honoured to be part of such a great Australian team,” Haecker said. “Judo is returning home, it’s such an honour to be part of that and it will be very special to compete at the Nippon Budokan.”

“I’m especially proud of my teammate Aoife qualifying for her first Olympics – her dedication and hard work is inspiring.

“My goal is to perform at my best, fully hearted without holding anything back. The dream of an Olympic medal is a big one, but I‘m certain that each one of us is ready to take on this dream. I want Australians to see some great fights and hopefully there are some kids who fall in love with the sport like I did when I watched my first Olympics.”

Coughlan delivered an extraordinary performance in the recent IJF World Championships to earn her place in the team, finishing seventh after winning a gruelling 12 minute 50 second fight in golden score, more than three times the regulation time for a judo fight.

“Becoming an Olympian has been a goal of mine since a young age and I'm excited and proud to represent Australia at the Games,” Coughlan said. “Judo is a small sport in Australia and I want the younger generation to see that anything is possible if you believe in yourself and are willing to put the work in.”

“It’s exciting to be competing in a venue that holds a lot of history for my sport and having competed at Nippon Budokan once before it is a fitting venue for the return of the Olympic judo competition to Japan.”

“Having had some strong performances in the last six months including top eight at the World Championships recently, my goal for Tokyo is to at least match that if not better.”

CEO of Judo Australia Emma Taylor welcomed today’s announcement.

“We are thrilled that Aoife and Katharina will be representing us in Tokyo,” Taylor said. “We’re so proud of the commitment they have made and the way they have represented Judo Australia on their path to the Olympic Games.

“It has been a challenging landscape for athletes to make it to these Games, and Aoife and Katharina have demonstrated incredible determination and resilience to earn their place on the team.

“They will be tremendous ambassadors for judo in Australia, and we are all looking forward to watching them compete on the highest stage.”

The Judo competition in Tokyo will run from 24-31 July at the Nippon Budokan.