Judo: Fairbrother goes back to basics

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S two leading women fighters return to international competition in the British Open at the National Indoor Arena today, writes Philip Nicksan.

At the end of last year, Nicola Fairbrother was the leading lightweight, having won the European and world titles to add to her Olymic silver in 1992. But since then, she has struggled, not taking a medal in international events.

Kate Howey, the 21-year-old world lightweight silver medallist, by contrast, has won most of her events and looks more powerful than ever, even though she has only fought in this category for 18 months.

Fairbrother, a 23-year-old sports journalist, admits that she is only just learning to cope with the pressure of being world champion. 'I have an inner confidence in what I do, but being the target for everyone is a new situation for me,' she said. 'I am only just learning to handle it.'

The responsibility of the title made her feel that she should win everything with perfect throws or ground-work - as she did when she won the title. 'But it is not realistic - most of my opponents just want to survive and I have to remember that the name of the game is to win,' she said.

Howey is eager for competition. 'I can't forget losing that world title in the last five seconds after being ahead for most of the fight,' she said. 'Every time I get on the mat I can't wait to get hold of my opponent.'

At 21, her prospects for adding further titles to the collection won by Britain's women are excellent. She is a clear favourite to win her event.