Judo: Stevens finds light in Sweeney's cellar

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EVERY day after completing his running and weights sessions, the British light-heavyweight Ray Stevens descends into a cellar in London's fashionable Chelsea for three hours of technical training.

It is the house of judo coach Tony Sweeney, Britain's light- heavyweight representative in the Tokyo Olympics, who has built a dojo in his home for just this purpose. But there is a new seriousness this week, following the confirmation of Stevens's ticket to the Barcelona Olympics - six weeks after the rest of the team.

Though originally selected, Stevens, the Commonwealth Games champion, was told to fight in the Southern Area Open to justify his place after more than a year off following a complete knee rebuild. He won the tournament last month, but has had to wait until the return of Arthur Mapp, the British men's team manager from Japan, to hear that his place was confirmed.

'I was very relieved to get the phone call,' Stevens said. 'It is not easy to train in a vacuum in the hope that you are going.

'When my knee was wrecked in a training camp in Austria in January last year, I had no idea that it would take so long to come back to full strength.'

Stevens remains short on recent top-level competition experience, but Sweeney believes this will matter less in his case. 'Ray's strength is his fitness and technical range - he can throw well with a number of techniques and he is justly feared for his armlocks,' Sweeney said.

Most of the other members of the British men's team returned this week from a gruelling month in South Korea and Japan to move into the final stage of preparation - combat training at an army camp in Devon.

The Wolverhampton middleweight, Densign White, and the Edinburgh lightweight, Billy Cusack, both suffered minor injuries during the Japan training. 'This kind of thing is unavoidable in a demanding combat sport like judo - we just have to hope for the best,' Mapp said.