Howey joins hopeful young Britons

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This year's British Open Championship, to be held at Birmingham's National Indoor Arena today, will be unique for two reasons: it will have the most participants ever but all of Britain's top players, save one, will be missing from the competition.

A total of 538 participants have registered for the annual event. However, most of Britain's leading prospects for the Olympics are in Japan for intensive preparation training. Kate Howey, 23, a former world silver medallist at under-72 kilograms, is the only top British player competing. Having performed badly in the Dutch Open last week, Howey decided she needed one more competition before the European Championships in May. She will leave for Japan tomorrow, to join the rest of the national team.

The British Open is not regarded as an A tournament. As such, it is regarded as relatively unimportant for players trying to qualify for the Olympics. However, it will provide a good chance for others in the national squad to prove themselves and possibly to win honours in Britain's most prestigious tournament.

Considering that only 14 countries have sent players (fewer than usual) the high number of registered participants suggests that many young British hopefuls are making the most of this opportunity.