Judo: Roberts switch throws up surprise

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The Independent Online

In one of the oddest British Open Championships ever, two of Britain's leading Olympic Games medal contenders, the middleweight Kate Howey and the bantamweight Craig Fallon, had to settle for bronze medals, while Karen Roberts, whose career at light-middleweight seemed to be over, switched categories and won easily.

Despite the absence of the injured world silver medallist, Karina Bryant, in the women's heavyweights, two British women reached the final, with Simone Callendar taking the gold and Kerry Manfredi the silver.

As men's world silver medallist Fallon is a marked man, a number of strong opponents crossed the English Channel to get the measure of him. He decided to sidestep them by fighting up a weight at 66kg instead of 60kg, and showed, losing only one of six fights, that his exceptional talent allowed him relatively free reign there. Fallon says that he will also miss the European championships in Bucharest in May. "I just want to peak once, in Athens," declared Fallon, 21.

Howey, 30, is coming to the end of her career and doesn't avoid challenges. She dealt with a testing series of fights, producing a range of armlocks and throws. She was unexpectedly countered in her third fight by Marianne Charve, of France, but determinedly came back to win a bronze in the repêchage, settling the matter with a nifty foot throw in the golden score section after eight minutes of continuous fighting.

Roberts surprised everyone by winning Howey's category despite having no experience of middleweight competition, meaning she could have just opened a new chapter in her international judo career.

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