With a strong family background in wrestling, it would have been no surprise if Jake Bensted followed his father and uncle into the sport.
But a lack of wrestling facilities in his then home town of Geelong forced Bensted to look at other options.
He turned his attention to judo, and hasn’t looked back.
The 23-year-old has a raft of state and national titles to his name, a Commonwealth Games medal and is hopeful of competiting at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
It hasn’t been an easy road and Bensted has had to make sacrifices for his sport.
He started judo when he was six years old, but it wasn’t until he was 13 or 14 that he decided to take it seriously.
“I was watching the older judo guys and decided that was what I wanted to do,” Bensted said. “I enjoyed the athletes life and I wasn’t that into school.”
Bensted had some success and was winning state events. He joined forces with former Olympian and then junior national judo coach Dennis Iverson.
The partnership proved fruitful – Bensted started winning national titles and a few overseas events.
He first represented Australia when he was 15 and won five straight junior national titles. He won his first senior national title in 2012.
In 2013, Bensted made the move from Geelong to Epping to board with Iverson, who is the current national judo coach and runs the Ijudo Club in Epping.
“I was travelling up and down from Geelong to Melbourne every day,” Bensted said.
“It become a bit much. My coach offered for me to move into his spare bedroom. Without his support and others like him it would be impossible.”
Bensted qualified for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and was the youngest competitor in the 73-kilogram division. He came home with a bronze medal and even more motivation.
“Going into it, I thought anything can happen,” he said. “I was optimistic.”
Bensted won back-to-back Oceania titles in 2015 and 2016, achieving his dream of qualifying for last year’s Olympics.
He said it was hard to put into words his Olympic experience. He was knocked out of the competition in the third round.
“It was insane,” he said. “I was still one of the youngest ones.
“I knew I had no shot for a medal, but I was looking forward to the experience. I lost to the eventual silver medallist. I almost had him. It was one of my best fights of my career even though I lost.”
Bensted’s experiences will hold him in good stead ahead of Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
But before that he’s aiming for next year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. Because there is no judo competition he’s returning to his family roots and hopes to compete in wrestling.
Even though Bensted loves what he’s doing, he admits it’s difficult at times with little media coverage or prize money for judo.
“I work as a security guard on night shift. It helps pay for trips overseas.”