Judo: Great Britain's Gemma Howell disqualified from opening-round clash


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The Independent Online

Euan Burton offered no excuses after seeing his hopes of Olympic judo gold shattered with defeat to Canadian Antoine Valois-Fortier in the men's under-81kgs at ExCeL.

Burton, 33, had once been ranked as high as fourth in his weight division, but last year struggled to make an impact at either the European or World Championships.

Valois-Fortier was not the expected opposition for the Scotsman, after knocking out Elnur Mammadli of Azerbaijan, the reigning European champion who won Olympic gold at under-73kg in Beijing.

However, the Canadian again produced the goods, this time with an ippon throw to end Burton's Olympic dream before it had the chance to get going.

"I lost in the biggest tournament in the world, the biggest Britain is ever going to see in my lifetime, I don't really know what else to say, but that is judo, people can get caught," said Burton, who also failed to reach the medal fights at the 2008 Olympics where he was mentored by Sir Clive Woodward.

"I have caught people quickly in the past, and people have caught me quickly before.

"The fight was pretty even up to that point, but I felt I was going to be able to dominate the fight.

"I did not feel any particular threat until then, but it was a beautiful bit of judo."

Burton felt he was in top condition to deliver.

"I felt fantastic, my preparation probably could not have gone any better, that is the most disappointing thing," he said.

"If I had poor preparation, things had not gone well, then you can use all of the excuses, but there are no excuses.

"I came in feeling one million percent that I could win the tournament and that I was in the best shape of my life.

"If you are in the best shape of your life and you go out in the first round, then maybe that is telling you something."

There was also disappointment for Gemma Howell, who was disqualified for an illegal leg grab in her opening-round clash of the women's under-63kg against reigning world and European champion Gevrise Emane of France.

Direct attacks to the legs have been outlawed under new rule changes introduced after the last Olympics.

Yesterday, Romania's Corina Caprioriu was disqualified from the final of the women's under-57kg for a similar move, which handed gold to Kaori Matsumoto of Japan.

Howell - from Wolverhampton but now fighting out of the British Judo performance institute at Dartford - had no complaints about the ruling.

She said: "I think it was the right decision. I was down a penalty towards the end of the fight and knew she was ahead on attacks, so I had nothing to lose.

"I felt it was a situation which a few years ago would have been fine, but it is not allowed any more. I went for it and I shouldn't have."

Howell was disappointed not to have enjoyed a more successful Olympic debut, having battled through injury to make the British squad.

"A few months ago I wasn't sure if I would get here, but I wanted to get here for the chance to achieve gold.

"Maybe when I go home and look at it again I can be positive, but right now I am completely gutted.

"I didn't come here to fight hard, I came here to win it, so I didn't do what I wanted to.

"It's what makes being an Olympic champion in judo so special - that you do only get that one chance every four years.

"Rio will be the next big thing for me now, but I will just have to wait for that."