Edition No. 32. Autumn, 2002. Today is

Commonwealth Games
Judo Tournament,

GMEX Arena, Manchester:
July 30 - August 1

By: Barnaby Chesterman
And what a final

In the semi-final, Vidler was harshly penalised to Keikoku against Morgan. Although he did have the better of it thereafter, it was too much to claw back. The two exchanged Yuko scores and Morgan made the final. And what a final. This was a backpackers guide to controversy, volumes 1 to 10.

In truth, the referee contributed most of it. He was hopelessly incapable of making a decision by himself (the same guy as mentioned earlier I think) and bottled just about every major issue of contention. Morgan hardly put in an attack all fight, and Gordon demonstrated some very tactical gripping throughout. Penalties swayed either way, first to Gordon, then again, but then Chui to Morgan for stepping out, followed by Keikoku for passivity. In the meantime, the Canadian had scored Yuko, but it was the scores that were not given that caused most uproar. Several times one attacked, the other countered, both fell. Both camps claimed the score but time and again the referee gave nothing. In the end, Morgan's Keikoku proved decisive, despite fervent protests from him and his coach. Gordon was the champ. There followed one of the most remarkable celebrations in sport, ever, anywhere in the world. Gordon ripped open his jacket to reveal his rippling abdominals before machine-gunning his ecsatic admirers. This was a man milking his moment. And it worked. The Beeb certainly took note and the British Gold medallists from

Jean-Francois Marceau of Canada. But despite that defeat and the end of a dream, Burbridge still paid tribute to his conqueror and raised Marceau's arm so he could bask in warm applause form the crowd. McGrorty beat Wales' Craig Ewers for the other Bronze medal. There was also a second Gold medal for Canada as Nicolas Gill proved he was a class above everyone else at under 100kg. In fact, he barely seemed focussed but still breezed past the opposition including England's Sam Delahay in the final who had produced some strong Judo during the day. Bronze medals went to Australia's Martin Kelly and Antonio Felicite of Mauritius, who was understandably delighted with his gong - the only one for his country at the whole Games.

Fiji won Gold at over 100kg as Nacanieli Qerewaqa beat England's Danny Sargent in the final with a spinning arm technique for Ippon. That ensured that there was a fair spread of Gold medals among five different countries from three different continents, which should help judo's prospects of being included in the Games in four years time. Daniel Rusitovic of Australia won Bronze, as did Nigeria's Emeka Onyemachi to ensure that Africa was well represented in the medals. Onyemachi was so pleased with his medal that he vowed to return in four years time and take Gold, for Nigeria and for Africa.

And that leaves just one last category: the women's under 78kg. This was another likely to be a two horse race but made all the more intriguing because of the inactivity of one of those fighters for most of the last year. Michelle Rogers, who was fighting in her home city, had competed in only one competition since winning the World Student Games title a year ago. In her place, Joanna Melen of Wales had performed admirably for Britain at the European Championships in May.

a fitting finale

Both made short work of their progress to the final, with Rogers needing just 27 seconds to dispose of Cameroon's Foguin Okodombe in the semi-final with a beautiful Seoi-nage. The final was an absorbing and enticing battle. These two women are not small or dainty and they went at each other with a ferocity that had men in the press tribune squawking uncomfortably through a mixture of fear and enthusiasm. It was bordering on brutal, but as the last women's contest of the tournament it was a fitting finale. Rogers seemed marginally more composed although Melen matched her for aggression. She was twice penalised for infringements, though, and Rogers edged further ahead with Yuko from a crouching Seoi-nage. Such was the power on display, though, that Melen always looked capable of muscling her way back into the contest. But Rogers held out and claimed England's eighth and final Gold.

"That was fantastic," she said. "The best part about it was winning on home ground because I have never had so much recognition and support."

It was a fantastic final. And Okodombe even added to Africa's medal haul with a Bronze, but Marie St Louis unfortunately could not add to Mauritius' as she was beaten for Bronze by Canada's Jacynthe Maloney.

That ended a tremendous tournament that flourished despite some dodgy refereeing. England, of course, topped the medal table followed in the far off distance by Canada, Australia and then the disappointed Scots (let's all say aahhh). But the main thing that came out of it was the excitement of the crowd, many of whom had probably never watched live judo before. They remained enthralled throughout and constantly lifted the British fighters on to greater efforts.

And I even managed to go some way to redeeming myself with some of the British women who have been less than impressed with my comments in the past. So after 4,000 words of trying to relive the drama and excitement of the Games, I think I'll just let you enjoy the pictures now.

Barnaby Chesterman

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Commonwealth Games
Judo Tournament 2002







GORDON, Winston (ENG)

GILL, Nicolas (CAN)





LEPAGE,Carolyne (CAN)




LOWE, Ssamantha (ENG)

ROGERS, Mischelle (ENG)


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