OLYMPICS / Barcelona 1992: Bell and Birch fall by the wayside

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THE British judo team lost some of its momentum yesterday when Ryan Birch and Diane Bell failed to reach medal positions in the light-middleweight category.

If Bell could get past the Polish European champion, Boguslawa Olechnowicz, in the first round the indications suggested a semi-final place at least. Bell duly fought that round in a manner befitting someone with two world and three European titles behind her. First she threw the Pole with a counter for yuko (five points), then added a further yuko with a seoi-nage.

Austria's Suzanne Profanter proved no more difficult, leaving Koo Hyun-Sook of South Korea between Bell and her expected confrontation with Catherine Fleury of France - but she fell to the superior speed of the younger girl. Another Asian fighter, Zhang Di of China, then beat Bell in the repechage, throwing her for five points with a double leg grab.

Birch had fought bravely to force his way ahead of Kerrith Brown to gain selection, only to lose both his matches here. His first opponent, Belgium's world silver medallist, Johann Laats, took the decision with no score on the board. More frustrating was Birch's repechage fight, where he led Hungary's Zsolt Zsoldos after two knockdowns, only to be thrown, 38 seconds from time, with a massive makikomi (winding throw).

Japan finally won its first judo gold of the Games when their light-middleweight Hidehiko Yoshida defeated Jason Morris of the United States.