Judo: Cox reaches new high with silver medal

Sophie Cox is known within British judo as a fighter and a scrapper rather than a stylish judoka, but this view may have to be revised after her best international performance yesterday at the European Judo Championships here, when she not only won the lightweight silver medal but also confirmed qualification for the Athens Olympics.

Sophie Cox is known within British judo as a fighter and a scrapper rather than a stylish judoka, but this view may have to be revised after her best international performance yesterday at the European Judo Championships here, when she not only won the lightweight silver medal but also confirmed qualification for the Athens Olympics.

And how close she came to winning the European title. For over four minutes of the five-minute final she ran Isabel Fernandez - the current Olympic champion from Spain - ragged, throwing her twice and preventing her taking any initiative. Only in the last 40 seconds did the experience of Fernandez count, racking up sufficient scores to overtake Cox.

"It was a relief to know that I qualified for Athens after such a hard last few months in the qualifying tournaments," said the 22-year-old Cox. And while disappointed with missing out on the gold, she acknowledged that this was a memorable day.

In each bout, starting against Maria Lindberg of Sweden she went out to throw to win. Cox made short work of Poland's Inga Golaszewska with a superb, clean ippon-seoi-nage (shoulder throw) for ippon (the maximum 10 points).

Her next challenge was the Italian Cinzia Cavazutti, European champion in 2002. The lead swung back and forth between the two and was a draw after the first five minutes. Forty seconds into the golden score period Cox produced the winning technique, a seven-point throw to put her into the final.

"Sophie is getting better with every tournament," said her coach, Brian Moore, of Bacup Judo Club, Rochdale. And on this evidence, Cox has elevated herself to an Olympic medal prospect.

On this, the first day of the European championships, Britain's featherweight Georgina Singleton and bantamweight John Buchanan both lost in the repechage.

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