Edition No. 34. Winter, 2003. Today is
 

Paris Tournament 2003
Paris, France: Feb 8 - 9, 2003

By: Nik Fairbrother
Last year Craig Fallon won the British Open and then followed that up with a Gold in Manchester at the Commonwealth Games. And now he has won one of judo's biggest crowns of all - the Paris Super A Tournament. Is there any stopping this young fighter? Nicola Fairbrother reports from Paris...

The day after…
It's the next day.

We are in the warm-up room at the Paris Tournament. Craig Fallon is having physio and I ask him what's the matter?

"Done my back in," he tells me, "Getting off that Uchi-mata".

Despite the pain, Craig has got a smile from ear to ear and so he should. Twenty-four hours ago, here in Paris , he won the Paris Super "A" Tournament.

"Worth it mind," Craig adds, still grinning, as the physio pummels his back.

And he's right. What's a bit of pain, when you've got a Paris Gold medal hanging around your neck? Fallon is the second man in British judo history to win this illustrious title (Nigel Donohue was the first)

As well as being one of the toughest medals in the world to win, this Gold medal also means Olympic qualification points for Fallon. It places him 3rd on the European ranking list. And that, beats an aspirin any day.

Fallon was impressive throughout the earlier rounds - but it was the fight for Gold that really showcased his judo. In the first exchange of grips in the final, the Korean lifted Craig skyhigh with a fast Uchi-mata. For those who missed the fight, don't worry Bob got the photo. You can see Craig upside down, looking like he's in all sorts of problems.

Fallon GBR -60kg throws Paischer AUT
For many, that would have been the end of the contest. But Craig (don't try this at home kids) managed to get his head on the mat and twist incredibly off the backside of the Uchi-mata to land, unfazed on his feet. This sort of escape is characteristic of Craig's judo; he has a remarkable ability to read attacks and then, twist out of them and counter attack.

This spectacular escape set the tone for what turned out to be a brilliant final with non-stop attacks coming from both fighters. In the end, Craig who had been looking marginally the stronger throughout the match, scored to win the fight and his biggest title to date.

While we are on the men's -60kgs, I should mention also that John Buchanan fought the same Korean in the first round. John threw the Korean with a Kata-guruma for Waza-ari. But the referees got confused and put it up on the wrong side and John lost the match.

Referees mistakes happen all the time in judo and they are always hard to take. But when it happens at a Super A, when you are fighting for your European selection it's tougher still.

Full credit to John for his positive attitude towards it all. You can't help but wonder what would have happened if the score had gone up on the right side. Could we have had an all-GB Paris final?

The Paris warm-up room is at mat level, behind the stadium stairs. It is where I spent a good part of the Sunday. Not only talking to the -60kg fighters (!) but also talking to, and hopefully helping, my club mate and friend, Karen Roberts who was fighting in the women's -63kg division.

All be it rather sweaty and smelly, the warm-up room is an interesting place. It's like going back stage. In the warm-up room you get a close-up on the champions and their different approaches to the contest. You get to see their warm-up routines, how they psyche up, how they handle the waiting (up to 3 hours sometimes) in-between rounds and how they deal with winning and losing.

In Paris, this year, the recently retired 1999 World Champion Graeme Randall was also in the warm-up room. However, and no doubt to the relief of many -81's, this year, Graeme wasn't competing - he was there as support staff and warm-up partner for our team members. It's good to see the BJA making the most of this great champion - can our fighters ask for a better warm-up partner!?

More success for Great Britain in the women's heavyweight category where Karina Bryant took the Bronze medal.

Bryant GBR +78kg throws Portet FRA for Ippon
From the start of the day, Karina had a look of determination about her - and it never faltered. She looked focused before each match. When Karina is in this frame of mind few fighters in the world can get the better of her - and certainly she had a great Paris.

Karina beat Rodina RUS, Andolina ITA, and then after losing only to the eventual Gold medalist Jia CHN she blasted through Somolinos ESP, Mondiere FRA and Portet FRA to take an excellent Bronze, GB's second medal of the tournament.

Karen Roberts came close to winning a third, as she stormed through the early rounds, holding down Decosse (European Champion) and then arm-locking Scapin (Olympic Bronze medallist) to make the semis of the-63kg. However, two subsequent losses, left Roberts just off the rostrum in fifth place.

It says something about the quality of this division, when you can beat two competitors of such calibre, and still come home emptyhanded.

Cox GBR -57 kg throws Kubatzki GER
But if its any consolation, Karen can be content that she did record the longest match of the entire tournament. Her fight against Decosse FRA went to the golden score. Five seconds from the second bell, Karen secured a hold down - meaning the fight time (excluding mattes) lasted a toe-numbing 10:20 seconds!

David Somerville, Mandy Costello and Sophie Cox all put in great performances to place 7th in their categories - gaining them 5 Olympic qualifying points apiece. Jim Warren - although he didn't make it to the
points - can be pleased with his victory over the Cuban World Bronze medallist Arencibia. Jim countered Arencibia's Seoinage, reading the move perfectly and twisting the attack to land the Cuban flat on his back for Ippon.

Spectacular throws also came from Tom Cousins who scored Ippon on China's He with a double footed Sumigaeshi and Matt Purssey who threw Holland's Vander Ham for Ippon with a skillful Tani-otoshi.

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MEN

-60kg

FALLON, Craig (GBR)

-66kg
BENBOUDAOUD, Larbi (FRA)

-73kg
TAKAMATSU, Masahiro (JPN)

-81kg
NAKAMURA, Kenzo (JPN)

-90kg
DESPAIGNE, Yosvane (CUB)

-100kg
SUZUKI, Kenji (JPN)

+100kg
MUNETA, Yasuyuki (JPN)


WOMEN

-48kg

JOSSINET, Frederique (FRA)

-52kg
LEE, Eun Hee (KOR)

-57kg
LUPETEY, Yurisleidis (CUB)

-63kg
VAN DECAVEYE, Gella (BEL)

-70kg
BOSCH, Edith (NED)

-78kg
ANNO, Noriko (JPN)

+78kg
JIA, Xueying (CHN)

 
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