Edition No. 28. Autumn, 2001. Today is
 
TWOJ Interviews
Michelle Rogers

By: Barnaby Chesterman

In September Britain took a team of six women and three men to Beijing for the World Student Games. The team formed a close bond and although there were not enough men to make up a full team, the women marched on into the final of the team competition, beating Japan along the way, before falling to China in the final. For one fighter, though, there was not just team success to celebrate, for Michelle Rogers also won the under 78kg individual title.

That put the icing on the cake in an excellent year for Rogers, where she has also taken Silver at the Tournoi de Paris, Bronze at the European Championships and seventh place at the World Championships. Although, as you would expect from one of Britain's top international fighters, she's hungry for more.

"It has been a good year, but my main objective was the World Championships. So in my mind, it's been a disappointing year," she said. "Winning the World Student Games was a small consolation, though, because it is a really big event and it's nice to finish the year on a good note. I was so disappointed after the Worlds so it was nice to have something to numb the pain."

Despite having her best season since stepping down from heavyweight to light-heavyweight, Rogers is determined to move on to even greater success at this weight now that she has broken her duck. "That was my first ever Gold medal at under 78kg, so it was a nice mental block to overcome" she adds.

Rogers believes the experience she had at the World Championships set her in good stead for this victory. "I was gutted to lose in my first fight at the Worlds, but what went wrong was mental. I had prepared really well but I put too much pressure on myself. I got nervous, but by the World Student Games I had a different attitude and felt a lot more relaxed."

The spotlight has really been on Rogers this year at under 78kg since Chloe Cowan has taken time off from judo to have a baby. But Rogers has overcome the disappointment of missing out on last year's Olympic Games and is focusing on the next one in Athens in three years time. "I feel like I am starting to get results now. I have never been a million miles away and its only a small difference between those that win the medals and those that don't" she says.

That victory in Beijing has now given her the belief that she can win tournaments at this weight category and she should go from strength to strength - that is as long as she remains free from injury. Last year in the penultimate 'A' tournament, Rogers suffered a ruptured medial ligament in her elbow after an illegal attack from a Cuban fighter. And she was close to suffering a recurrence of that injury in the final in Beijing.

She beat Claudia Zwiers in the final after the Dutch fighter was disqualified for the same illegal attack. Zwiers, however, got away with it when she beat Rogers at the European Championships earlier in the year. Now, Rogers has a bone to pick with the referees. "The job of the referees is to protect us. They have to be vigilant otherwise fighters can get seriously injured. Zwiers was only disqualified with 30 seconds of the contest to go, but I was annoyed because it was the third time she had tried that technique. I have had to have treatment on it all week" she says. Injuries are certainly a major concern for top fighters but it is testament to her character that Rogers did not let the controversy affect her performance; she was leading by Yuko anyway when Zwiers was disqualified. But for now it is back to her clubs in the Manchester area, SKK and Urmston. Rogers is looking towards the British Championships in December where she's aiming to establish herself as the number one fighter and earn a trip to Japan for the Fukoka Cup. Things are looking up for Rogers and the rest of the division had better beware.

BC



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