Dan Mair: One of UK's most promising judo stars quits after Youth Olympics selection row

Exclusive: Mair, 17, is ranked No 1 in the UK for his age and weight

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The Independent Online

One of Britain’s most promising young judo stars has quit the sport after a row over selection for this months’ European Youth Olympics.

Dan Mair, 17, is ranked No 1 in the UK for his age and weight, but is said to be “completely disillusioned” with the sport after being picked to represent Great Britain at the games in Tbilisi, Georgia, only to be dropped on a technical matter after a complaint from his rival.

“To drop a 17-year-old boy from that height has been hugely devastating to him,” his mother Helen said. “He now thinks, ‘What’s the point with judo? I’m not being judged on my sporting ability.’ ”

Dan who holds a European Bronze medal and is ranked just outside the world top 40, was one of 12 young Olympians – six boys and six girls – sent a confidential email last month from the British Judo Association congratulating them on selection for the games, which begin on 26 July.

He was to compete in the under-90kg division for judoka “cadets” – those aged between 14 and 17 years old. But the British No 2, Will Jones, who is also 17, lodged an appeal.

According to documents seen by The Independent, Will was the BJA’s original choice for the games; but the decision was subject to ratification by the association’s performance management group, who subsequently plumped for Dan instead.

In his appeal Will, from Swansea, who holds a higher European Cadet Championships ranking than his rival, called on the BJA to deselect Dan, from St Albans, for a number of reasons including “breach of process” and the fact that he held a winning 2-1 record against Dan.

The BJA’s fast-track appeal panel decided there had been “material breaches” of the selection process and upheld Will’s appeal. The panel admitted that its decision had not been made on athletic ability but on procedural grounds.

Mrs Mair told The Independent that her son, who was too upset to talk, had previously said selection for the Youth Olympics would be the “highlight” of his career.

“How any sporting decision cannot be based on the merits of the two athletes is beyond me,” she said. “Dan was on cloud nine. [Now] he has stepped away from his judo career and told the squad he no longer wishes to be part of the programme.”

A spokesman for the BJA said: “An appeal was made and in this case there was a very close call between Daniel and Will. These decisions are not taken lightly.”

Mrs Mair said Dan had not decided on his future but she hoped he would return to the mat in the autumn to help coach young judoka at his local club.