Unorthodox Fallon gets luck of draw

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The Independent Online

Mercurial, Gymnastic and totally intuitive, bantamweight Craig Fallon is probably the most talented judo fighter Britain has produced in the men's team since Neil Adams.

Just 21, he has emerged from the junior ranks to win world and European silver medals as well as a host of golds in regional events. And today, when he steps on the Olympic judo mat, he has a perfect opportunity to win a Games medal - and even reach the final.

It is unlikely that fate will serve Fallon better in terms of the draw. He starts with an unranked Australian and his two most experienced opponents - the Korean world champion and the Japanese Olympic champion from the past two Games - are both on the other side.

Not that Fallon worries overmuch about draws. "I am confident I can beat him," says Fallon. He says the same thing whoever is place in front of him.

When he went to Japan earlier this year to train against their best he grew bored - partly because not many of those lightweights wanted to encounter the unorthodox Fallon experience.

Fallon can do classical judo, but mainly he does what the moment tells him to do. He is a commentator's nightmare. He departs so often from the standard Japanese judo textbooks with angles of attack taken from wrestling, gymnastics and - or so it seems - trampolining, that the basic skill of naming techniques is frequently challenged.

He is famous for finding himself flying through the air on the end of a throw only to spin out midway and convert disaster into triumph. Somehow, the established laws of gravity and mechanics become irrelevant.

The other Fallon trademark is the head bandage. More often than not his ducking and diving brings his forehead into contact with something solid and a bandage is necessary midway through a fight - though it never seems to put him off.

But he has his weaknesses. One of them is twice-European champion Nestor Khergiani, the Georgian whose fighting style negates Fallon. In three meetings, Fallon has lost comprehensively. And Khergiani is on Fallon's side of the draw.