JUDO : Early success for Britons in Birmingham

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Of the eight British fighters who fought on the first day of the European Championships yesterday, five have won places in tomorrow's semi-finals, writes Philip Nicksan from Birmingham.

The day began with the two British light-heavyweights, Kate Howey - who has been in the medals since 1991, even though she is still only 21 - and Ray Stevens, fighting and winning.

Britain's two European champions, the middleweight, Rowena Sweatman, and the light-middleweight Ryan Birch both won semi-final places. Sweatman had two fights, winning with a throw and a hold. Birch had three, and relied on two armlocks and a throw.

Diane Bell, 29, who won her first European title a remarkable 11 years ago, looked as strong as ever, winning her two light-middleweight fights briskly with a strangle and an armlock. Although heavyweight Josie Horton lost her first fight, she won the first repchage round, and is still in with a chance for a bronze.

Today sees the second day of the preliminaries, with Nicola Fairbrother, the world lightweight champion, on the mat.