Judo: Foreign forays favour Britain

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The Independent Online
TEAM JUDO, relatively undeveloped in the UK, is big in Europe. Each weekend, the major clubs in France, Germany and other strong judo nations, tour their countries competing in leagues - and the stars are often British.

Many of our top fighters, especially in the women's division, are invited to compete for regional teams: world middleweight champion Kate Howey, European silver medallists Georgina Singleton (featherweight) and Debbie Allan (lightweight), all fight for teams in Germany. Even Karina Bryant, who retained her world junior title in Colombia last week, fights for the German team Saar.

In fact, the Europa Club Cup last year was won by Saar, almost entirely represented by Britons. It is the experience gained there that could result in another gold medal at the European Team Championships, which start in Villach, Austria, today.

Coached by Diane Bell, the former world champion, the British women's team look to match the result of two years ago when they stormed through French and Russian opposition with ease to take first place.

Considerable pressure will fall upon Vicky Dunn, the least experienced member of the team who, as a bantamweight, will fight first in each round - the competition is fought in ascending order of weight. She is the only member of the British team not to have a major international medal to her credit, though she is British Open champion. But with the team anchored by Howey and Bryant, they must be favourites to win.

"Team judo is very different to the individual events," Mark Earle, the men's team manager, said. As chief instructor at the Camberley Club, which has a residential judo squad of some 18 young men and women training full- time, Earle encouraged his fighters to compete abroad.

"They have one or two fights which gives them experience of European judo and keeps them competition sharp," he said.

While the British women will be hunting for a gold, the men, competing tomorrow with a relatively inexperienced team, will be happy with a bronze. For the 19-year-old middleweight, Sam Delahay, this will be his first event at international level.

The British Judo Association announced it has cancelled the A Tournament at Sheffield next month due to poor international entries.

GREAT BRITAIN: (European Team Championships, Villach, Austria): Women: Bantamweight (under 48k) V Dunn; Featherweight (u52k) G Singleton; Lightweight (u57k) D Allan; Light middleweight (u63k) K Roberts; Middleweight (u70k) K Howey; Light heavyweight (u78k) C Cowan; Heavyweight (o78k): K Bryant. Men: Bantamweight (u60k) S Dunkley; Featherweight (u66k) D Somerville; Lightweight: (u73k) L Burbridge; Light middleweight (u81k): G Randall; Middleweight (u90k): S Delahay; Light heavyweight (u100k): K Davis; Heavyweight (o100k): R Blanes.