Sad Bell fails in final quest

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Diane Bell has won every major competition in a remarkable international career - including two world titles and three European titles - spanning nearly 15 years. But yesterday her career drew to a close without the Olympic medal she so wanted.

The 32-year-old, who won gold in Seoul when judo was only a demonstration sport, showed she was still among the best in winning a bronze medal at the European Championships in May. Certainly, on paper, she was in with a chance in Atlanta. But, as she said: "It wasn't to be."

Bell did not have any real difficulties against Australia's Lara Sullivan, though the Briton had to rely on a decision in a scoreless match. The second round should have been another stepping stone to higher things - after all, only two months ago Bell beat Yaneisy Alvarez of Spain in the European championships. However, the more the four-minute contest progressed, the less Bell looked in command.

"I didn't know what was the matter with me," Bell said. "I have been training for this one event for four years. I felt that I could think about what to do, but I couldn't do it."

Alvarez went ahead on attacks, though a small score could have swung the match. In the closing seconds, it was the Spaniard who put the result beyond reach with a leg-grab for seven points.

Bell was outside the mat when Alvarez executed her winning throw. "I thought I'd got far enough off the mat, but obviously I hadn't and I relaxed. And the referee counted it," said Bell, who had to be comforted by her coach when she broke down in tears afterwards.

"It was hard to get back after that. I just didn't get into the fight. I was thinking about what I was going to do and doing it two or three seconds later. At this level you cannot do that. I think I might just have edged it if it hadn't been for the throw.

"When I beat her in May I absolutely battered her. I threw her and strangled her. I don't know if I was over-confident going in there. Perhaps I was a bit too cagey and she took advantage of it."

With Alvarez being thrown and held by the Netherlands' Jenny Gal in the next round, Bell was out of the competition.

"I have said that I will be available for the European team championships if I am required, but then I will think seriously if I will continue," Bell said.

In the men's light middleweight division, Graeme Randall, the 21-year- old from Edinburgh, was eliminated in the first round by Shay-Oren Smadja, of Israel, with a powerful footsweep.