Judo: Kingston thrown by tough draw

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The Independent Online
Danny Kingston established himself as an international fighter by winning the European lightweight title in May in The Hague, a success which raised great hopes of a medal in Atlanta. Yesterday, those hopes proved overly optimistic.

Having trained for four years with the Olympics in mind, Kingston knew last week, at the draw, that he had an uphill battle with a series of tough opponents. And so it proved.

In the first round, Kingston faced Sergei Kolesnikov from Russia. It says much about the Briton's standing that Neil Adams, the team manager, expected him to win despite the strong tradition of Russian judo. Kingston did not disappoint. He went straight into the attack, taking the Russian backwards with a drop throw for waza-ari (seven points). Shortly afterwards, he caught a leg in mid-air and wheeled Kolesnikov down for three points.

But it was the coup de grace that showed Kingston's ability. Kolesnikov attacked with a fast footsweep but found himself flattened - swept off his feet himself in a very fast counter. It was Kingston at his best.

However, not even Kingston at his best is yet ready to beat the top echelon. James Pedro, the American who beat King-ston for a bronze in the world championships last year, was his opponent in the next round - and it was like an action replay.

A superb shoulder throw earned the American an ippon (10 points) to end the match. When Pedro was eliminated in the next round, Kingston was given no chance to return in the repechage.

This was a severe blow for the 23-year-old from Wokingham. "That's it for me," he said. Kingston, who has competed at judo since he was five years old, added: "I trained so hard for four years, you are ready for the competition and you lose."

Adams, though, thought that after due time for reflection, Kingston would change his mind about quitting. A member of London's Budokwai club, Kingston is approaching the peak of his career, and there is no doubting his natural ability. He is certainly one of the most talented fighters in England. And, as the British men's squad will see changes in the post-Atlanta Olympic period, he should be playing a major role in the bid for international medals in the near future - not least with the world championships in Paris in October next year.

Kingston is, however, not fit or strong enough to hold off the attacks of the top players, be it Pedro or the Japanese Kenzo Nakamura. He is often breathing heavily in mid-fight, relying on his exceptional ability to slip away from danger and dart into attack rather than stand square and meet it face on when the occasion demands.

However, there is no doubt that he put in the best performance of the British men's team in Atlanta so far. The European featherweight silver medallist Julian Davies, who fights today, and the bantamweight Nigel Donohue, who fights tomorrow, can take heart from the boldness Kingston showed.