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Seven-strong team for reinstated Games sport

Gisborne has its latest Commonwealth Games athlete in judoka Sydnee Andrews.

The 19-year-old is in London training, but her long-time Gisborne coach Jason King was in a jubilant mood after the New Zealand Olympic Committee named Andrews in the judo team for this year's Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

King said he had coached Andrews since she was five.

“Then, she was just learning,” he said.

“As she got older and gained experience it was obvious she had potential.”

Andrews won a bronze medal at the recent Prague European Open, which would have helped her qualify for Commonwealth Games selection, King said.

The entire judo community in Gisborne and across the nation would have been excited to hear a team of seven would go to Birmingham, he said.

It is the first time judo has featured in any New Zealand Games team since the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games, with judo left off the programme at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

King, head coach of Gisborne Judo Club, said Andrews' accomplishment at Prague had left him stunned.

Judoka from 44 countries took part in the competition, King said.

“I believe it is one of New Zealand's best results at this level.”

King had previously been impressed by Andrews' first win in a senior event, in Poland.

But the Czech result “blew us away”.

Andrews is the daughter of Michelle Lexmond and Darren Andrews and is the younger sister of Alex.

She has been a member of the New Zealand judo team competing in the senior division at a junior age since 2019, and she competes in the over-78-kilogram division.

The XXII Commonwealth Games will be held from July 28 to August 8.

TEAMWORK: Sydnee Andrews helps in a tug of war at a holiday programme she ran to make money to head overseas to train and compete in judo. Inset: Andrews pictured in 2019, when she was named Gisborne Judo Club Judoka of the Year.Tug of war picture by Ben Cowper; portrait by Liam Clayton