By: Barnaby Chesterman
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.