Edition No. 22. Spring, 2000. Today is
2000 Senior British Closed Championships

By: Barnaby Chesterman
Chloe CowanJunior European Bronze medallist Tom Cousins (NHC), stole the show at the Ponds Forge Arena in Sheffield by coming out on top in a strong -90kg field. That category always looked likely to be the highlight of the day, as most categories were missing the top fighters. Winston Gordon (Lon) demonstrated the keen competitiveness of this event in his first contest when he ruthlessly dumped a 6th Kyu, Alan Murphy (Mid) for Ippon with Te-guruma. There's no quarter asked, no quarter given at this level.
The first big match-up came in the quarter final between Cousins and Steven Vidler (SJF). Vidler was definitely one of the favourites but was quickly caught by the live-wire Cousins for Ippon. Cousins then threw Brett Embley (Y&H) for Ippon with Morote-gari to take his place in the final. Gordon seemed most likely to be the other finalist as he dominated his bout against experienced Dave Nicholls (Mid). With seconds remaining however, Nicholls produced a spectacular O-goshi counter to flatten Gordon and progress to the final.
Cousins was on fire though, and Nicholls never managed to settle, quickly being dispatched for Ippon with Kata-guruma. Cousins punched the air in delight at winning Gold in his first major senior tournament. It was a tremendous feat that clearly left him a little confused as, when I tried to interview him, he categorically insisted he did not like Geri Haliwell but would be interested in acquiring Gail Porter's phone number. I was left completely bemused and wondering if my new haircut made me look like Cilla Black.
The -66kg was equally keenly contested with a flu-ridden Jamie Johnson (Mid) stepping up a weight. This move pitted him against David Somerville (SJF) in the second round and the two had a thrilling tussle. Johnson struck first scoring Yuko with Tomoe-nage. He then gave away Chui to level the scores but another Yuko with Ko-soto-gari put him in front again. A mini shock was on the cards and right at the end Somerville retired after the strapping around his broken finger came loose. Johnson went on to face James Warren (Lon) in the final. Warren's semi-final opponent, Stuart Harris (Mid), also retired with cramp in his toes, although, in all fairness he was in a hold at the time. An increasingly off colour Johnson could not reproduce his heroics, though, and Warren won comfortably by Yuko.
Another favourite who appeared to be struggling was Nicola Fairbrother (NHC) in the -57kg category. Fairbrother comfortably overcame her first two opponents but found Lisa Jessop (WJA) an awkward competitor in the semi-final. Jessop scored an early Koka and held that lead into the last minute when Fairbrother increased the pressure. Jessop started wilting and resorted to dropping, giving away two penalties, the last in the dying seconds, to hand victory to Fairbrother. Jenny Brien (Sth) also caused Fairbrother problems in the final but again a penalty in the last seconds secured the title. Fairbrother was philosophical afterwards, saying: "Under the circumstances I am happy. It is difficult to lift yourself for this tournament so soon after the World's."
Eric Bonti Chloe Cowen (Nth) also seemed a little flat at -78kg but battled through well to take Gold against Joanna Melen (back from a long layoff due to a knee injury). Many of the womenfs finals were lacklustre affairs with Donna Robertson (SJF) and Gemma Hutching (Nth) winning the -48kg and -63kg respectively with walkovers. Elise Summers (Lon) took Gold at -52kg by virtue of Sophie Coxfs (NW) Shido in the final. The Scots were generally having a good tournament and Amanda Sneddon added another Gold to their tally in the -70kg.
A shortage of competitors meant that both the men's and women's heavyweight categories were settled in Pools with Michelle Rogers (NW) and a resurgent Danny Sargent (Sth) claiming the titles. In the -100kg Keith Davis (Lon) was completely dominant scoring Ippons all the way to the final which he duly won when Richard Giles (Lon) pulled out. The -81kg final was an entertaining, if rather short, affair with Luke Preston (WJA) throwing Jay Nicholson for Ippon with a leg-grab O-uchi-gari. David Johnson (NHC) won the -60kg with a decision victory over Timothy Davies (WJA) in the final.
Eric Bonti (Lon) was in dynamic form in the -73kg although he appeared to start slowly in practically every fight. Even so he lit up the tournament with an array of spectacular Ippons that took the breath away. First up Chris Rowley (NHC) was thrown with Te-guruma, then Ian Johns (Y&H) succumbed to a Ura-nage and then Wayne McDonald (Mid) was thrown with Yoko-wakari. In the semi-final Bonti was struggling desperately, trailing by Chui with time running out but he pulled it out the bag with a stunning left-handed Uchi-mata to progress to the final.
Bonti is quite a fearsome competitor and his ice-cold, Shadow-esque stare and stooped shouldered prowl probably intimidates his opponents, while also causing no end of amusement to his club-mates. Although the semi-final had been a struggle, he admitted that it was more his own doing. He said: "I put too much pressure on myself in these tournaments. I am fighting well but Ifm starting badly. I have got to learn to relax more." Well relax he did in the final, scoringYuko with Tai-o-toshi and then rounding it all off with another Ippon from Kata-guruma to beat Ian Francis (Mid). If Cousins was the star of the tournament then Bonti ran him a close second. Hopefully these two and other youngsters will start challenging the Randalls and Kingstons and we can look forward to a lot more international success.


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