British hopes floored

JUDO
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The Independent Online
Despondency was yesterday starting to permeate the British team as neither Ray Stevens nor Kate Howey managed to get even close to medal position - although they came away from Barcelona in 1992 with a silver and a bronze respectively. Both will be taking a hard look at their careers to see where they go next.

It must be said that neither have seen much success internationally over the past couple of years, and although both made it past the first round in Atlanta, success stopped there. Stevens could only edge past El Gharabi of Egypt. He needed more than a decision to give him confidence against Ben Sonnemans of the Netherlands, who beat Stevens in the first round of the European Championships in May.

Sonnemans is young and large and, though without the Briton's fine technique, dominated the fight. When Stevens made his best attack, an inner thigh throw, Sonnemans contained it and then countered, scoring yuko (five points). With Sonnemans then losing in the next round to Min-Soo Kim of South Korea, Stevens was eliminated.

Stevens, 33 next week, is in the closing stages of his career. But Kate Howey's position after her performance yesterday is more complicated. She won her first fight with a five-point score from a double leg grab against Karin Kienhuis, the Netherlands' European silver medallist.

She then lost to Japan's great light-heavyweight Yoko Tanabe, which was no shame except in the manner of the win. In an exchange, when Howey felt she was losing, she threw Tanabe with a kani-basami (crab pinch throw), which had been banned six years ago as a dangerous technique. Howey was lucky not to be disqualified - receiving only a seven-point penalty, which lost her the fight in any case.

She lost her next fight, the first round of the repechage, against Hannah Ertel of Germany, though arguably on a somewhat harsh penalty decision for non-attacking. Now 23, she has had a top-level international career since the age of 15 that included world and European silver medals. She has changed weight categories once, from under-66kg to the current under- 72kg, but now seems outpowered. If her career is to continue, something must change, perhaps by dropping back to 66kg.

Meanwhile, Michelle Rogers, the 20-year-old heavyweight who lost to the eventual winner, Fumin Sun of China, on Saturday, the first day of the judo, has also left her with much to think about. She is definitely a talent - at 20, she has a European bronze medal to her credit - and on Saturday she was the only fighter to last the full four minutes with Sun and not to be taken apart. She lost on a penalty.

There is also the question of weight. At 79kg, Rogers is very light for a heavyweight - often she is fighting women of 130kg and more. "I can't go down to 72 kilos, and I don't want to get fat," she said. It is another problem to be solved in order for her talent to be fully realised.

Pawel Nastula of Poland beat South Korea's Min-Soo Kim to become the supreme light-heavyweight in men's judo yesterday when he added the Olympic title to the world and European titles he already holds. And Ulla Werbrouck brought Belgium its first Olympic judo gold for 16 years by throwing Japan's Yoko Tanabe in the final.

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