Coaches must answer serious questions

JUDO
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The Independent Online
With the judo competition going into its last session, and bantamweight Nigel Donohue still in the repechage with a chance for a bronze, Britain's judo team faces their worst results of any Olympics since 1964.

The team arrived in Atlanta with hopes of at least three medals, according to team manager Neil Adams, but disaster has followed disaster. Only Nicola Fairbrother, a former world champion, managed to regain a semblance of her past form and get within sniffing distance of a medal - she lost narrowly for a bronze.

What has been most disappointing has been not just the fact that they have lost, but the way that they have lost. Most have gone out with a whimper, without putting up a fight.

In his first contest, Nigel Donohue showed that he can be a class player. Facing Pedro Caravana of Portugal, he felt himself into the match and then struck, bowling him over with a well-timed seoi-nage (shoulder throw) for 10 points.

But, in his next fight, he showed the down side of his fighting temperament. He went ahead against Dorjepalan Narmandakh of Mongolia on a penalty and then sat back to try to win on tactics. This is not advisable at any time, not least at the Olympics, but has been a feature of too many British fighters in this event. Inexorably, the Mongolian got back into a commanding position. Donohue was penalised, and then caught with a leg grab to lose the match.

In his first two fights of the repechage, once again Donohue showed his skills, Melvin Mendez of Puerto Rico was thrown in 20 seconds and Alisher Mukhtarov of Uzbekistan submitted to a strangle. This put Donohue into a face-off with the current world champion Nikolai Oyegin - with the bronze medal match after that.

Joyce Heron, from Rosyth, was outclassed by Spain's European champion, Yolanda Soler. She won one repechage match against Caroline Lepage of Canada but was eliminated from the competition by Malgozata Roszkowska of Poland.

Thus, in the women's team, once the pride of British judo, only one of seven fighters - Fairbrother - has won more than one match in a row this Olympics. Of the six men, only Donohue has won more than one. The coaching team of Neil Adams, Mark Earle and Jane Bridge will now face some serious questions.

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