Judo: Fairly tough for Fairbrother: World champion is marked woman in defence of European title

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ALONG with the status of world champion comes the fact that you become a marked man or, in Nicola Fairbrother's case, a marked woman. The 23-year-old lightweight came here to defend the European title she won in Athens last year and, while she reached tomorrow's semi- finals, she had to draw on her mental and tactical reserves.

The draw looked easy enough. Neither Danka Stevovic, of the Independent European Athletes, nor Portugal's Filipa Cavallera are in the top ranks, but they had prepared themselves to meet such a high-profile opponent as the world champion.

Fairbrother started easily enough, throwing Stevovic for five points with uchimata (inner thigh throw) and held her down for another score. But once the Serbian had struggled free, she grew in confidence and fought the Briton to the last second of the four-minute contest.

Cavallera took a different tact, defending furiously in an attempt to survive. She incurred a penalty, but grew strong as Fairbrother's attacks failed to penetrate. With a minute to go, Fairbrother herself received a passivity penalty but, at the moment when the fight seemed in doubt, she upped her level and unleashed a rear leg throw for a clear five points. This won her the semi- final place against Ursula Myren, of Sweden.

For Debbie Allan, the 18- year-old from Camberley Judo Club, life was so much simpler. She swamped the initial attacks of Hungary's Eszter Janosi and, as the fight slipped to the ground, whacked on an armlock to induce the submission. Her second round against the German Alexa Von Schuchow followed much the same pattern, except this time it ended with a strangle. This put Allan into a semi-final against Italy's Alessandra Giungi.

The featherweight Julian Davies, meanwhile, was whipped over in 15 seconds by Russia's Vladimir Datchko.