Judo: Cox poised to make mark and confirm Olympic berth

At the age of 22, the Lancashire lightweight Sophie Cox is ideally poised for making her mark at the top international level - and the three-day European championships, starting today, gives her the perfect chance, having taken a silver and two bronzes in the Olympic qualifying events this year.

With her gritty fighting style, Cox, who now trains at the National Judo Academy at Bisham, is a worthy successor to Nicola Fairbrother, who held the weight category with such distinction. Ranked third in Europe, Cox should see her Athens place confirmed today as well as winning a medal.

It will be more tense for Winston Gordon, 27, the middleweight who is in the ninth and final Olympic qualifying place. With medals and placings worth double Olympic qualifying points, rivals could edge him out if he does not fight well.

Of the four Britons qualified for Athens, only the featherweight Georgina Singleton and the heavyweight Karina Bryant are here - Craig Fallon and Kate Howey choosing tactical avoidance. Bryant, 25, is aiming for match fitness. Injury has prevented her from competing all year. As the world silver medallist, she is a real Olympic hope.

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