Judo: Selectors facing new headaches

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The Independent Online
THE BRITISH National Championships at the Cardiff Institute of Sport yesterday were intended to settle the format of the international squad for the first quarter of next year, but by the end of the day it had created as many problems as it solved.

There were a handful of categories in which there is no question of ranking - the top fighters are evident. Into this category falls Kate Howey, the world middleweight champion who, at 25, remains dominant. In the semi- final Karen Powell and, in the final, Rachel Wilding failed to penetrate the defence of the champion and could not stop the winning attacks. Similarly, Chloe Cowan, the European light-heavyweight bronze medallist, beat her main rival, Michelle Rogers, once again; and Georgina Singleton, the European featherweight silver medallist, crushed all opponents. The bantamweight Joyce Heron was not challenged.

In the men's division, the light-middleweight Graeme Randall, the light heavyweight Keith Davis and the heavyweight Richard Blanes were never really tested.

However, elsewhere there was havoc. In beating Debbie Allan, the European lightweight silver medallist, the veteran campaigner Nicola Fairbrother showed that she is still a real contender for Sydney. Similarly, Ryan Birch, at middleweight, bounced the 22-year-old Winston Gordon.

And in the men's lightweight, there was complete confuson. The talented 25-year-old Danny Kingston failed the weight by nearly two kilos. It is now likely that he will not be considered for international competition for the first part of next year - the important run-up to the European Championships.

But the title did not go, as expected, to Lee Burbridge, but to the outsider Eric Bonti, who footswept Burbridge and then threw Jean Paul Bell in the final.

And then there is the women's light-middleweight, in which, from a string of good, mature fighters, the 19-year-old Gemma Hutchins from Newcastle emerged as champion, having courageously won a series of hard fights.

The new British coach, Udo Quellmalz, and his selection panel have a tough task ahead.