Dalkeith judo star Valentino Volante is licking his lips at the chance of building upon his first taste of senior-level judo as he prepares to fight some of the world’s best next month.
The 20-year-old, who has been training full-time since moving up from the junior ranks three years ago, recently finished a respectable ninth place at the German European Cup in Saarbrucken.
Volante’s long-awaited debut on the senior circuit was hampered weeks before, after the athlete sustained a leg infection which ruled him out on competing at the European Open in Bucharest.
But having finished inside the top ten, Volante is relieved to have his first major senior competition under his belt and admits it was a huge stepping stone in his career.
“It was hard and really tough,” said Valentino, a former pupil of St Modan’s High School in Stirling.
“I‘ve gone from competing against young boys who are a similar age to me, to competing against fully grown men. Senior’s is a big step up in terms of maturity, both physically and mentally.
“I managed to win a couple of fights and lost a couple, so I was happy with where I finished. I guess it wasn’t bad effort for my first time and it’s all good experience.”
And the learning doesn’t stop there for Volante.
After a month-long training camp in Japan, he’ll head off to Slovenia in early September, followed by Serbia, to compete in further senior European Open events.
“I’m in the thick of it now and I’m going to keep trying to transition up to that senior level,” said Volante.
“I’ve not had much of a transition so far because of my infection at the start of the year, but I’m in good stead and I feel my training has been going well.”
In his quest to climb up the senior world rankings and one day fulfil his dream of appearing at an Olympics, Volante will be aided by being part of the SSE Next Generation programme for the second year running as one of 50 athletes given financial support and recognition.
The judoka will be supported in everything from travel costs to lifestyle management through different workshops run throughout the year.
Volante said: “The SSE scheme is invaluable, especially helping me travel to my competitions and training camps abroad.
‘‘The workshops are brilliant, I’ve really benefited from the athlete mentoring the scheme offers, as well as media training and it’s been great having Olympic medallists come and speak to us.”
Since 2013, SSE is proud to make a difference to young people, their families and their communities, by investing in the future of sporting talent through the SSE Next Generation scheme. Keep up to date @YourSSE