Judo: Gold reward for different styles: Experience counts at British Open

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THE fighting styles of Britain's two light-heavyweights, Olympic silver medallist Ray Stevens and world silver medallist Kate Howey may be totally different, but the end result at the British Open in Birmingham on Saturday was the same: gold medals.

The 30-year-old injury- prone Ray Stevens always looks as if he is going to be outpowered by bigger, stronger opponents until, with incisive technical brilliance, upends them.

The 21-year-old Kate Howey employs nothing less than blitzkrieg tactics. She charges off her mark to club her opponents into submission, disguising her undeniable technique in sheer, unstoppable power.

By their wins at the weekend, they showed themselves likely to repeat the success at the European Championships in Gdansk, Poland. And so, it must be said, did Olympic lightweight champion Nicola Fairbrother, even though she withdrew after winning her third fight in order to protect a twisted knee.

Stevens, back in competition after 18 months of rehabilitation for a knee operation, was impressive. Rogier Heldens was thrown in two different directions before being pinned; Volker Heyer was duped and then flattened by a sweet combination; Spain's Esteban Hernandez was thrown three times; Chris Bacon of Australia was summarily pinned. Mike Hax, German's No 1, managed to fight a rearguard action for the full five minutes of the final, though he lost anyway on penalties for passivity.

Waving bruised, deep-purple fingers in the air, Stevens said: 'I am going to let these heal for a bit, get in some decent training for the Europeans and I will be ready.' He also revealed that he spent the night before the event on the floor of a hotel room: though an Olympic silver medallist, he is on the dole and without a grant.

Life is easier for Kate Howey. She is a computer operator for Thompsons' book division who give her time off for training, is helped with a car by Twinings and has a grant. On Saturday she justified them all. She threw Janet Sore in 15 seconds and then proceeded to demolish the French light-heavyweight team sent to test her. Then, in the final, she ran up four scores against Heli Syrja of Finland.

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