British judo finds itself on the mat after leading hope Craig Fallon's failure to win a medal for the second successive Olympics. The sport has won only one in the last two Games and faces funding cuts unless one or more of the six remaining in the team can reach the podium.
In 36 years of Olympic competition Britain has won seven silver and nine bronze medals, but the elusive gold seems unlikely unless there is a major upset. It was hoped that 25-year-old bantamweight from Wolverhampton, the former world and European champion, would end the drought with a pace-setting gold rush on the first day of action, but as in Athens four years ago he literally threw it away, suffering an ipon (judo's equivalent of a knockout) when ahead on points against an opponent he was expected to defeat, this time when he was within sight of a bronze.
Fallon had failed to get to grips either with himself or two of his five opponents, first the Austrian European champion Ludwig Paischer, whom he had beaten on the last five occasions, and then the Israeli Gal Yekutiel, who had lost all three of their previous fights. It was not so much the losses but the manner of them which concern the British judo hierarchy, who undertook a sweeping review of the sport after the disappointments of Athens, restructuring the elite coaching set-up.
Fallon complained of feeling "tired and drained". He said he had not felt right since getting up in the morning, and "just couldn't get my head round things". Instead he ended with a bandage around his head, one of the eyebrow injuries he has repeatedly endured opening again after a clash of heads in his bout with Paischer. He is not even sure that he wants to continue to London in 2012. "If I don't feel right for it maybe I'll let someone else have a go," he said.
Of the squad members left the Scottish middleweight Euan Burton, a world and European bronze medalist, who fights tomorrow, and the combative heavyweight Karina Bryant, both seem to have reasonable chances, as does 27-year-old Peter Cousins.