Judo: Stevens and Howey take the honours

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THE British squad had one of its most successful days in recent years at the European Championships in Gdansk, Poland, yesterday - the first of two days of preliminaries - when five of the seven competitors secured places in tomorrow's semi-finals, writes Philip Nicksan.

The consistency was a tribute to the coaches, Neil Adams and Mark Earle. The light-heavyweights, Ray Stevens and Kate Howey, were spectacular. Stevens, aged 30 and only just back after 18 months out with a knee injury, removed Pedro Soares of Portugal with a special wrap- around tani-otoshi which he has only recently introduced. Musta Dzhinec, from Bosnia, lasted six seconds before capitulating to a classic uchimata (inner thigh throw). , Eric Faroux, the dangerous Frenchman, was thwarted with another wrap-around tani-otoshi as Stevens barely broke into a sweat.

This gained him a semi-final place against Mike Hax, from Germany, whom Stevens beat last month in the British Open. Howey was also impressive in her three wins: she new meets Estha Essombe of France in the last four.