Judo: Somerville faces test of character

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The Independent Online
THE FEATHERWEIGHT David Somerville, club-mate and training partner of the new world champion, Graeme Randall, faces a test of character at the British Closed Championships at Ponds Forge Sports Centre in Sheffield today. With Olympic year looming, he must confirm his No 1 spot despite the handicap of a broken little finger on his left hand.

"Little fingers are very important for gripping in judo," explained his coach, Billy Cusack, who guided Randall to his world title in Birmingham in October and is convinced that Somerville has the talent and determination to do equally well at the Sydney Olympics.

Though he just missed out on Olympic qualification in Birmingham, Somerville's international track record suggests that he will qualify by winning "A" tournaments in Europe between January and April. But it remains to be seen whether he can hold off London's Jim Warren today with his finger injury.

With the seven fighters who have already qualified for the Olympics still viewing the facilities in Australia, the focus falls on those now competing for selection. The lightweight Nicola Fairbrother is still convinced she can improve on the Olympic silver she gained in 1992, and will have to face the youthful challenge of Jenny Brien, from Camberley, while London's Winston Graham puts in his middleweight bid for recognition against the more experienced Ryan Birch, from Manchester.

And what of wayward Danny Kingston? He fights at light middleweight, instead of his normal lightweight, but knows that even victory in Sheffield will not solve his weight problems. To qualify for Sydney he will have to make the 73kg weight at least four times and only he knows whether he has the dedication to do that.