Judo: Golden flair of Fairbrother

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BRITAIN'S women's team again scooped a hatful of medals at the European championships, led by a gold medal won with style and speed by the 22-year- old Nicola Fairbrother, writes Philip Nicksan from Athens.

She had a slight shock in the semi-finals when, after leading with a five-point footsweep against Zulfya Guseinova, of Azerbaijan, she was thrown for an equal score with less than a minute to go. But Fairbrother then demonstrated that she has depth to her skills.

Fractionally before the bell, Guseinova was whipped over on to her side, putting Fairbrother safely into the final. Once there, she took only 30 seconds to throw Tanja Munzinger, of Germany, for ippon with uchimata.

On Saturday, the light-middleweight, Diane Bell, forced a submission from a strangle from Gisella Hammering, of Switzerland, also in less than 30 seconds; the light-heavyweight, Kate Howey, took her bronze in exactly the same time - except that she threw Simona Richter, of Romania, with a powerful tai- otoshi (body drop).

The weekend also saw two unexpected medals from newcomers to the women's squad. For Chloe Cowan, a 19-year-old from Crawcrook Judo Club, to win a silver in her first European championships promises much. Notable, too, was the featherweight, Elise Summers, whose non-stop style brought bronze.

The one medal (a bronze) for the men's team came from the bantamweight Nigel Donohue.