Judo: Adams rumour spices the battle

Click to follow
ONLY half of the audience attention at the National Judo Championships in Crystal Palace this weekend will be on the top players, though with individuals such as Olympic medallists Nicola Fairbrother and Kate Howey, and the world junior champion, Ian Freeman, the competition should be rugged enough.

The other half will be firmly on the equally tense controversy taking place behind the scenes - the surprising resignation of the women's team manager, Roy Inman, and the coach, Ann Hughes, and the redundancy of Arthur Mapp, the men's team manager. It remains to be seen whether the weekend will bring confirmation of the rumours that Neil Adams and Mark Earle will play leading roles in the coaching of the national squads in the future.

Certainly, their return from the European junior championships in Jerusalem with a gold medal from the featherweight, Freeman (to add to his world junior title), and bronzes from the lightweight Danny Kingston and the bantamweight Jaimie Johnson will have done their cause some good.

The junior women's team returned with useful results - silvers from Philippa Gemmill (bantamweight) and Cheryl Peel (featherweight) and a bronze from Karen Roberts (lightweight) - but questions will be asked as to whether it is significant that at the first European junior championships without either Inman or Hughes in charge, there were no gold medals.

The competition this weekend - the seniors on Saturday, the juniors (men under 21; women under 18) on Sunday - is principally about establishing the squad system for next year through ranking points, leading eventually to international selection.

Among the notable rivalries will be the clash between Josie Horton, the No 1 light-heavyweight, and Howey, the Olympic middleweight bronze medallist who has moved up a category. And gaps need to be filled following the retirements of Karen Briggs and Densign White.