Judo: Five-star show from Britain's women

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The Independent Online
A FRESH wave of inspiration was evident at the British Open Championships at Birmingham's National Indoor Arena this weekend as five of the seven titles in the women's division went to home-grown fighters.

Then Keith Davis surprised everyone - probably including himself - by winning the solitary men's title, in the light heavyweight division in the most convincing style.

Now 25, he is growing into a formidable fighter in what is physically perhaps the toughest division in judo - and yesterday he handled hardened opponents with ease.

It will probably be the absolute conviction with which he dumped Antonio Romero, the Spanish national champion, in the final, that will convince the selectors to send Davis to the European Championships in Oviedo, Spain next month. Before this weekend he was told he was not going.

There is no doubt that the women's team will be travelling to Spain with confidence as they put on a spectacular show.

Britain's one reigning world champion, light-heavyweight Kate Howey, whacked on armlocks and threw opponents to the left, the right, backwards and forwards as if she were playing. The final, against her arch rival Isabel Deauruelle, of France, was more serious. But a fast kata-guruma gave her a comfortable lead and, after four minutes, the title. "I am getting stronger all the time said Howey who is settling to the new higher little middleweight division of 71 kilos.

Karina Bryant, the exceptionally talented heavyweight, came to Birmingham with the memory fresh in her mind of the previous week's win at the Dutch Open where she threw the current French world champion, Christine Sicot.

So it was to be expected that the 19-year-old should win the British Open though perhaps not so comprehensively as she did. In the final France's Sonia Manrin lasted just 14 seconds before being smashed with a footsweep counter. Bryant should be another member of the women's team to bring back a European medal.

Debbie Allan threw three of her five opponents with ippon (10 points) to end the fight there and then. In the final, she crushed her countrywoman Jennie Brien with another stunning tai otoshi.

The 19-year-old featherweight Georgina Singleton has replaced Sharon Rendle, who has retired and is now coaching in Australia. At the moment Singleton is winning with an awkward opportunist style and she is difficult to beat. It was this style that gained her a first British Open title.

The fifth British gold from the women's division came, unexpectedly, from Vicki Dunn, who fought grittily to the final and there slipped past the guard of Germay's Julia Matijass for a clean throw.