Judo: Fairbrother gains rapid revenge

When Nicola Fairbrother fights, her eyes narrow and her face sets in a mode of grim determination and this was particularly true of the final at the British Judo Championships at the Cannock Leisure Centre yesterday.

She was facing Natalie Barry, the Lancashire 19-year-old who, earlier in the day, in the pools, edged past Fairbrother on a small penalty point to inflict the only defeat of the day on the former world champion.

Earlier, she had two consummate wins, throwing Lisa Jefford with uchimata ( inner thigh throw) for ippon (10 points) and holding down Helen Keating.

But emerging from the pools in second position, Fairbrother threw Jennifer Brien in the semi-finals with her favourite throw, sumi-gaeshi (corner counter).

Drawing on her experience, she changed her gripping strategy in the final and dominated the contest, winning clearly with three penalty points.

Though it is now a decade since Fairbrother first won this event - at 17 - this was a key win. She has been out of action for seven months following the serious shoulder injury which forced her to pull out of the European Championships in Belgium in May.

"My shoulder was fine and I needed to feel that I could get back into competition,' she said.

With some of the top players absent through injury, and others, including world middleweight champion Kate Howey, competing in the Fukuoka Cup in Japan, the spotlight was thrown on the younger prospects.

Of particular interest was the 17-year-old middleweight Sam Delahay who won his category in the junior competition on Saturday, and then, unusually, won the seniors yesterday.

Delahay, who teaches judo in the Bristol area, disposed of Brett Embley, ranked No 2 in Britain, with a fine uchimata, and then held Darren Hanney in the final. The day also saw bantamweight Jamie Johnson, featherweight Simon Moss and heavyweight Richard Blanes, all from the Neil Adams Club take their categories.

BRITISH CHAMPIONSHIPS (Cannock Leisure Centre, winners): MEN: Bantamweight (u-60k) J Johnson (Neil Adams Club). Featherweight (u-65k) S Moss (Neil Adams Club). Lightweight (u-71k) A Johnson (Ren-Bu-Kai). Light-middleweight (u-78k) L Preston( Wrexham). Middleweight (u-86k) S Delahay (Keynsham). Light-heavyweight (u-95) D Lasebikin (Crawcrook). Heavyweight (o-95k) R Blanes (Neil Adams Club). WOMEN: Bantamweight (u-48k) V Dunn (Metro). Featherweight (u-52k) E Summers (Budokwai). Lightweight (u-56k) N Fairbrother (Pinewood). Light-middleweight (u-61k) R Felton (Budokwai). Middleweight (u-66k) K Powell (Budokwai). Light-heavyweight (u-72k) R Birch ( Urmston). Heavyweight (o-72k): S Callender (Tokei).