NATHON Burns is hoping the hard work and gruelling training regime will put him in good shape in his quest to finally realise his Olympic dream.
The Blackburn-born judoka has wasted little time in getting over the huge disappointment of missing out on London 2012 – and his sights are now firmly set on Rio in 2016.
While Britain’s batch of Olympians have been easing their way back in to action, Burns has thrown himself back in to the sport and is more than happy to put his body on the line.
“My body has been taking a daily battering but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said the 23-year-old former Our Lady and St John’s High School pupil. “I’m training hard every day. It’s pretty extreme, gruelling stuff but that is the way I like it.”
Burns lives and trains at Camberley Judo Club in Surrey alongside other elite judo players including GB Olympians Craig Fallon, Ashley McKenzie and Karina Bryant who won a bronze medal at London 2012.
He trains five days of the week and up to four sessions a day – and that doesn’t include the work he also puts in over the weekend.
Burns has also been on training camps in Tunbridge and Kendal and spent three weeks in Japan just before Christmas.
“I’ve been to Japan three times now and it is an incredible place to go and train,” added Burns.
“It is their national sport and where ever you go they are training. The standard over there is like no other so you really get to test your chance at the highest level.
“Wherever you go, there are people training. We trained in a number of universities over there where it is massive.
“I got thrown around plenty of times but I got a few throws in as well.”
Burns was also back up in his native Blackburn towards the end of 2012 to take part in a judo masterclass organised by Shadsworth Judo Club – his former club and a club run by his dad Joe.
Fallon and Bryant also joined him on the mats along with judo players young and old and coaches from around the area.
“I always love going back home and we have held these masterclasses a few times now,” he added. “We get a great turnout and getting the likes of Craig, who is a former world champion and Karina, who won a medal at London 2012, to come along is great for everyone.”
Burns admits London 2012 has been an inspiration to him – something he did not think he would be able to say after the agony of missing out on selection.
He was ranked two in the country behind Colin Oates and was on course to go as first reserve only to be leap-frogged by Lewis Keeble.
He did eventually go to the Olympics but only has a training partner for GB team-mate Danny Williams.
“At first I didnt want to go,” recalls Burns. “I think it was the disappointment of missing out and I didn’t want to be anywhere near there.
“But looking back, I am so glad I went because it was a real inspiration. It was great to go and help Danny and also see some of the action.
“The reaction judo got from the British public was incredible and to be able to be there to watch it and witness it really has spurred me on.”
Gemma Gibbons, who captured the nation’s heart with her medal winning celebration in memory of her mother, was one of the top judoka who joined Burns on the winter camp in Kendal – which included Bacup’s David Groome and Sophie Cox.
“That was a bit different,” said Burns. “As well as the usual training on the mats, we were running up through the woods lifting tree trunks. It was pretty tough stuff.”
Burns’ long road to Rio begins at the British Championships in Sheffield at the weekend where he will be up against GB rivals Oates and Keeble And after seven silver medals he is hoping this is the year he finally strikes gold.
“I’ve won the British Open which is harder but have never managed to win gold at the British Championships. After so many silver medals this could perhaps be my time.”
But Burns is looking at the bigger pitch for anything at this stage would be a bonus.
“It’s all about hard work for me at the moment and perhaps putting down a few markers.
“But my aim is to try and medal at the major championships in the next few years and try and get to the European Championships and World Championships.
“The ultimate aim is to go to Rio in 2016 but I know there is plenty of hard work ahead of me.”
And Burns has already shown that since London 2012, he is not afraid of a bit of hard work – even if it does mean putting his body on the line.