Josh Katz prepares for green and gold return

Six years after becoming Australia's youngest ever judoka at the 2016 Rio Olympics, La Trobe Elite Athlete Program (LEAP) member Josh Katz is ready to make his mark on the international stage once again.

With his sight set on gold, Katz has been named in the Australian squad of 12 to compete in the Under 60kg category at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham next month.

In exciting news for the Katz family, Josh will be joined in Birmingham by his older brother Nathan, who is taking part in the Under 66kg category. The pair moved to Melbourne from Sydney earlier this year in preparation for the Commonwealth Games and will compete alongside each other as they did previously in Rio

Speaking ahead of flying to Europe to put the final touches on his preparation for the Commonwealth Games, Katz says his aim to come home as number one is a realistic goal.

“The way I’ve been performing this year has been some of the best results I've had to start off 2022,” he said.

“I definitely think if I’m able to keep that run of form and performance level going, then gold is definitely on the cards.”

Katz’s selection for the upcoming Commonwealth Games marks a welcome return to green and gold colours for the La Trobe Bachelor of Exercise Science student, who has endured a turbulent run since his record-breaking appearance at the Rio Olympics.

Post Rio, setbacks like injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic hindered Katz’ progression. After not qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics last year, the 24-year-old took it as a huge turning point in his career.

“I think I really took Rio for granted; I just assumed I'll be back there four years later, (and) I don’t know if I fully appreciated the significance of the moment at the time,” he said.

“Having missed out on Tokyo, I really enjoy the moments as they come, because you don’t necessarily know when, or if, you’re going to get them again.”

As a professional athlete, Katz takes on a busy lifestyle juggling study and judo through the support of the La Trobe Elite Athlete Program, which assists him in fulfilling his sporting passion while pursuing his academic career. In fact, Katz's commitment to his academic studies was rewarded earlier this month when he was announced as one of 41 athletes to receive an AIS Education Scholarship.

Through being highly flexible and providing learning plans to its members, Katz says the LEAP program gives him the support he needs, especially when he is overseas throughout competition time.

“As an athlete, you are naturally more organised with your time, but there’s just some things that are unavoidable,” he said.

“The (LEAP) program is fantastic in being able to accommodate for my schedule, as it is a fairly unique travelling schedule with a lot of demands.”

Between last year's Tokyo disappointment, COVID lockdowns and career threatening injuries, Katz says having the outlet of study beside judo was a nice way for him to channel his energy into something positive.

So what is his advice for future student athletes looking to study at La Trobe?

“I think this (the LEAP program) is a really great support network to lean on when you need it,” Katz said.

“If you’re able to be organised and never ask for any help then more power to you, but I definitely think it has taken a lot of stress off my mind personally.”

Looking forward, Katz says there aren’t a lot of opportunities to fight for Australia and he hopes this year he will be the one to bring the Aussies home a ‘nice shiny medal’.

“It’s been a big building phase this whole year in the lead up to the Commonwealth Games being the major event for this year, so I’m really looking forward to the last little bit of preparation,” he said.

“Even though it’s very hard and challenging, being overseas isn’t always the easiest, but I think in the lead up to such a big and important event, it is so exciting.”

To keep track of Josh’s progress and the performance of all of La Trobe’s Elite Athlete Program members at the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, make sure you are following La Trobe Sport on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

For more information on the La Trobe Elite Athlete Program, visit the La Trobe Sport website.

Image: Supplied by Josh Katz