At just over six foot tall, Karina Bryant, the former European heavyweight champion, towers over the 5ft 7in Olympic middleweight silver medallist, Kate Howey, and despite the myths that surround judo, size does matter.
When Bryant steps on to the mat today on the first of the four-day World Championships in Munich, few of her opponents will be taller, though some will be much heavier than her relatively slim 95kg. That factor will be to her advantage as Bryant attempts to improve on the bronze medal she won in Birmingham two years ago.
"She has a natural feeling for judo throws – that is one of her great strengths," says Udo Quellmalz, the British team's performance director, who was one of the leading figures of German judo, with two world titles and one Olympic gold. "She is still only 22, which is very young for a heavyweight – if she can focus her will to win, she could be very successful."
The issues are totally different with Kate Howey, who fights tomorrow. She is short for her middleweight category, but has learned to cope with the disadvantage, compensating with a tremendous will to win. Now aged 28, she has already had a remarkable career. This will be her sixth consecutive World Championships, during which she has won a fifth place, two bronzes, one silver and a gold and the one thing she has learnt is how to fight.
Her style is explosive, unpredictable, dangerous. On her way to winning her world title, she launched the current South Korean Olympic champion to shoulder height before smashing her to the mat for an unforgettable win. In Sydney last year, it was Howey who upheld the honour of an otherwise lackadaisical British team, winning a silver with a merciless arm lock.
But she admits that any medal this year will be a bonus, as she injured her shoulder and then her knee earlier this year, and has not fought since February. "I am fairly fit, and I just hope that my experience of top competition over all these years will serve me well," she admits.Reuse content