She may be the world heavyweight silver medallist, but not even Karina Bryant should be able to walk on to the mat of the European Championships, not having competed for eight months due to injury, and reach the final with aplomb. But this is exactly what she did, and even though she fell at the last hurdle, another silver medal was just reward for her talent and determination.
It was a fitting end to a largely successful event for the British team, which saw a medal total of two silvers and a bronze, with the light middleweight Sarah Clark taking a courageous bronze on Saturday to add to Sophie Cox's opening lightweight silver on Friday. But, perhaps more importantly, it also saw four extra fighters confirming their qualification for the Athens Olympics.
Bryant is 25, yet she has already won three European gold medals, so she isn't too disappointed with her silver in Bucharest. "I have only been training full out for a few weeks so I couldn't expect any more," she said. And it was only a small slip that saw her thrown and trapped in the formidable hold of Ukraine's Maryana Prokofyeva right at the start of the fight.
Up to that point, the heavyweight from Camberley Judo Club seemed invincible. Looking composed and in control, she put Susanna Somolinos, of Spain, down on her side for a small score to start with, and then banged her hard on the mat with a pick-up to finish the match. Yuliya Barysik of Belarus lasted just 40 seconds; Tzvetana Bozhilova of Bulgaria was countered twice in a convincing display of dominance in the semi-final. The loss in the final will serve to sharpen Bryant's attitude to training in the run-up to Athens, where she is a clear medal favourite.
On Saturday, the 26-year-old Clark put in her best international performance at the right time. Her bronze medal gave her sufficient points to take her to fifth in the European rankings, high enough to book her place in Athens. What's more, she had to do it by picking herself up after a first-round loss and sweeping unerringly through the repechage, which she did, despite opponents of the calibre of Lucie Decosse, of France, and Italy's Ylenia Scapin, both with better past results.
The British team came to Bucharest with four fighters confirmed for Athens: Bryant (heavyweight), Kate Howey (middleweight), Georgina Singleton (featherweight) and Craig Fallon (bantamweight). They leave with a further four: Clark (light middleweight), Cox (lightweight), and Rachel Wilding (light heavyweight) and Winston Gordon (middleweight), neither of whom won medals but who had accrued sufficient points in the 'A' tournaments during the year.Reuse content