Howey saves face for Britain

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The Independent Online
The biggest British Open Championship ever was held on Saturday at Birmingham's National Indoor Arena. Spread over eight mat areas, a total of 538 players from 14 countries took part in this annual event - Britain's most prestigious judo tournament.

The French team was there in full force, often with as many as three players in each weight category. Although they did not send their Olympic squad, they still managed to dominate the tournament. At the end of the day, the French contingent walked away with six out of 14 gold medals.

Britain, sadly, only managed to salvage one face-saving gold medal - through Kate Howey, the 1993 world silver medallist at under-72 kilograms. But she did it with style, forcing Simone Besgen, her opponent from Germany, to submit by applying a lightning-quick strangle on the ground. This move earned Howey 10 points and a victory.

Two other Britons made it to the final: Lee Harron at under-71kg and Jane Morris at over-72kg. Harron fought bravely, scoring first against his capable South Korean opponent, Sung-Hyun Ryou. However, once Ryou settled down, there was nothing Harron could do to quell the onslaught of attacks by the South Koreans. Eventually, Ryou scored 10 points and won the match.

Many spectators were delighted to see Jane Morris return to form after a brief retirement from competition. However, in the final she had to contend with Angelique Seriese, the current world champion from the Netherlands. At the start of their match, Seriese immediately applied an arm-lock on Morris from a standing position which resulted in a dislocated elbow for the Briton. Morris could not continue and therefore forfeited the match.

All in all, it was not a good day for British judo. The Scottish contingent, in particular, which did so well in the recent British closed competition, performed far below expectations. However, the event was a good experience for many young British judo players who were given the opportunity to fight international opponents for the first time.