Fairbrother shows sense of purpose

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Nicola Fairbrother, the world lightweight champion, lived up to all expectations at the European Championships yesterday, by winning the first two rounds for a place in tomorrow's semi-finals.

She set off to regain the European title she won in 1992 and 1993 with confidence and purpose. Michelle Krey, of Denmark, did not present much of an obstacle; Fairbrother turned her on the ground and held her for the statutory 30 seconds.

However, she was tested to the full in the next round by Karine Petit of France. Petit had recently come down from the light-middleweight division, and this showed in the difference in arm strength. Fairbrother fell behind on the battle for grips, so switched the field of attack to the feet, and swept Petit off-balance for koka (three points). With a minute to go, Fairbrother conceded a koka herself from a footsweep, but deservedly won on a split decision. She now faces Tanja Munzinger of Germany.

The only other British fighter to gain a semi-final place was the bantamweight, Nigel Donohue. He has not distinguished himself at the Europeans since winning a silver medal in 1990, but he looked transformed yesterday. Against Pedro Caravana of Portugal, he collected small scores with his unorthodox kata-guruma (similar to a fireman's lift) before sweeping him off his feet for ippon (10 points).

Against Bulgaria's Orlin Bussev, he produced even more stunning judo, another fireman's lift followed by the rarely seen yoko-wakare (side separation) for ippon. "I learnt it from a book," admitted Donohue afterwards. Donohue faces Yacime Douma, of France, in the semi-final.

Three other British fighters won through the repchage. The lightweight Danny Kingston exploited his throwing talent; former world featherweight champion, Sharon Rendle, arm-locked her way through, and world bantamweight bronze medallist, Joyce Heron, had throws when it mattered.