|As a young team embarked on a daunting trip into central Europe to take on the elite of junior judo, the mood was more one of hope and discovery than expectation and ambition. British judo is no longer a major world power, so before the competition began the talk among the coaching staff was about gaining experience rather than attempting to make a serious assault on the medal rostrums. In many ways, the fighters almost all matched their pre-tournament expectations and the tournament became something of an experimental exercise. There were no medals to celebrate but the fighters tried their hardest, there were a couple of good performances, a medal fight and evidence that this group of fighters have a good team spirit and unity that should stand them in good stead in their development.
Sarah Adlington put up the best showing of all the athletes, overcoming a first round defeat to come back and fight for a medal at +78kg. Early in the day she was thrown for Ippon by Josefine Vostry of Germany but her conquerorís subsequent victory in the quarter-final gave her a second chance in the repechage. In her next two fights she had the opportunity to show what she is capable of and won both convincingly. After defeating Spainís Susana Guiterrez, Adlington outclassed Tina Kukec of Slovenia, putting three scores on the board and forcing a penalty. She scored Waza-ari with a hip throw and Yuko with Harai-maki-komi but could not finish the fight before the allotted four minutes as Kukec wriggled out of a pillow hold. That was the repechage final, though, and Adlington then faced Brazilís Aline Puglia for Bronze. She seemed to be giving away a fair bit of weight to her surprisingly mobile opponent and it was that mobility that proved to be her downfall. Puglia took control of her head and shoulders and manoeuvred her into position before executing a side-on Osoto-gari for Ippon. It was a defeat and her tournament ended in disappointment but Adlington can be proud of her performance and a finishing position of fifth.
There was also an admirable performance from Londonís Lee Shinkin at -66kg. He made a blistering start taking just 18 seconds to beat Allaksan Kryvasheyeu of Belarus with a lighting-fast stooping Kata-guruma type technique. Itís an unorthodox technique to say the least as his approach is head-on rather than side on but the twist and spin he gets on it is remarkable. He switched to Kochiki-taioshi in his next fight against Taipeiís Huang Chun-Ta to score another Ippon and put him within striking distance of the quarter-finals. Standing between him and a probable meeting with Japanís Hiroyuki Akimoto, was Costel Danculea of Romania. There was little in it but the Romanian seemed to have the slight upper hand and remained in a measure of control throughout. Shinkin could not make any headway and was twice penalised Shido which left him waiting for a possible place in the repechage. Danculea, who went on to take Bronze, proved a difficult opponent for Akimoto but he lost by Waza-ari and Shinkinís tournament was over.
|Conway GBR -70kg
attacks Park KOR
No other British fighter came close to winning a medal but nevertheless they did themselves proud. Monica Grzelewska has many more years of junior judo ahead of her at -48kg and she looked lively in her opening bout against Tatiana Simantov of Israel. She fought without fear and although thrown for Ippon there is hope that she could eventually fill Britainís gap at her weight in the senior ranks. Alex Goodrich took Japanís Yuki Hirata to golden score in his opening -90kg bout before giving away a penalty for holding one side of the jacket with two hands. He delighted himself in throwing New Zealandís Shaun Calder for Ippon in the repechage before he fouled out in a nervous and negative display against Samvel Sargsyan of Russia who went on to win Bronze with a powerful performance of Russian-style pick-ups.
Sally Conway fought with injuries to both her elbows and was only narrowly beaten by Park Ka-Yeon of Korea in the -70kg first round. Park was another Briton conqueror who went on to win Bronze but most of the Brits were not having much luck being brought back into the repechage. Gemma Gibbons overcame great personal trauma this year to put up an impressive effort in the -78kg division. She came back from two Yuko scores down against Alexandra Matasaru of Romania to edge ahead by Koka with a professional and determined display. She seemed a little overawed by eventual winner Hitomi Ikeda of Japan and was always on the defensive before she was finally pinned for Ippon with Kesa-gatame following a Waza-ari from Kouchi-gari. Gibbons was involved in an entertaining repechage contest against Marhinde Verkerk of Netherlands but lost out by Waza-ari to Yuko. The last two fighters both suffered first round defeats. Joe Delahay was pinned with Mune-gatame by Joao Schilittler of Brazil in the +100kg category and Faith Pitman lost an entertaining fight at -63kg against Viktoria Bolshak of Ukraine. They exchanged Waza-ari scores before Bolshak won it with 30 seconds remaining with a second Waza-ari from Tani-otoshi. Fighting in her second Junior World Championships, Pitmanís result, although not her performance, was the only real disappointment for the British team.
There was an experimental new format at this tournament with the preliminary rounds of all categories held on the opening two days of competition and the final rounds held on the last two days. This proved unpopular with fighters and coaches alike and also extended the Championships by a day, meaning greater expenses for travelling delegations. The new system did little to alter the world pecking order, though. Japan still dominated, (just as it had in the Olympic Games two months earlier).
The absence of Cuba no doubt helped the Japanese women but even so five Gold medals from seven categories provided a damning indictment of the other nations. There was no fighter in the class of Yoshi Ueno who lit up the Junior Worlds two years ago and the Japanese won largely because the standard of opposition was not very high. That is not to take anything away from those that won, particularly Mai Tateyama who produced a stunning final performance to defeat Chinaís Yan Sirui by Ippon in the +78kg final. Ikeda looked a good fighter and was a convincing winner in the -78kg final against Germanyís Franzisk Konitz. Perhaps the most impressive womenís Champion was USAís Ronda Rousey at -63kg. The senior Pan-American Champion and Olympian in Athens really looked a good fighter and was clearly better than her opponents. She has a rudimentary but effective Juji-gatame and her winning throw in the final against Chinaís Mao Jing Jing after just three seconds was reminiscent of her training partner Ė 1999 World Champion Jimmy Pedro.
|Lee Shinkin GBR -66kg attacks Kryvasheyeu BLR
Rousey was one of just two Olympians competing, but the other could manage only Bronze. Portugalís Telma Monteiro was narrowly beaten in the -52kg quarter-final by eventual winner Yuka Nishida of Japan. But it was Monteiro who looked the more impressive and her run to a medal through the repechage showed that she too had competed at a higher level Ė she won Bronze at the Senior Europeans in May and won two European A tournaments this year.
The menís categories were more open and a Frenchman stole the show with a stunning display of bouncebackability. David Larose actually looked second best in his last four fights but still came through to win the menís -60kg division in the dying seconds of the final after being dominated by home favourite Laszlo Burjan of Hungary. Larose was awarded generous Ippon scores against Japanís Hiroaki Hiroaka and Koreaís Nam-hyun Jo. He then suckered Kazakhstanís 2002 Silver medallist Asset Tusupov with some incredible counter-attacking judo in which he turned one attack after another against his opponent through greater suppleness. After his final victory he endeared himself to the whole crowd with a double back-flip celebration. Watch out for him in the seniors because he will be an exciting as well as talented addition.
Hungary did win a Gold medal through -70kg fighter Anett Meszaros, although she was a far better fighter on the preliminary day than the final day when she needed to scrap and scrape past Franceís Anais Llopis in the semi-final and Olesy Ovseychuk of Russia in the final. Japan won the menís -66kg courtesy of Hiroyuki Akimoto and fellow countryman Satoshi Ishii took the -100kg title. Lativia gained Gold in the menís -90kg through the brilliant judo of Jevge Borodavko, who at just 17 years looks a great future prospect. His semi-final victory against a good Japanese, Yuki Hirata, and final defeat of an even better Korean, Choi Cheon, made him the star of the first day of finals. Georgiaís Lasha Gujejiani was a comfortable winner at +100kg, benefiting from two years of senior experience. Russiaís Ereki Kopoliani caused a surprise in the -81kg final with a 14 second victory against Japanís Ryuji Hanamoto with an excellent leg-grab Kouchi-gari. Korea managed to claim a Gold medal through Kim Jae-bum at -73kg after he edged out Mohamed Bouguerra of Tunisia, the only African medallist at the Championships. Japan won the last two Gold medals with Mai Hiromura needing golden score to defeat Anicka Van Emden of Netherlands at -57kg and Tomoko Fukumi beating Russiaís Nataliya Kondratieva at -48kg by three Shidos.
Japan won an incredible seven Gold medals at this tournament, including five of the seven womenís categories. Although their talent must be marvelled at, such domination is not good for the future of judo. No other country won more than a single Gold medal, leaving Japan a country-mile out in front. Japan, though, cannot be blamed as itís fighters were not of the highest calibre, they were simply better technically than their opponents so perhaps the rest of the world needs to start focussing more on technique to try to catch up.
Tadahiro Nomura (JPN)
Masato Uchishiba (JPN)
Won Hee Lee (KOR)
Ilias Iliadis (GRE)
Zurab Zviadauri (GEO)
Ihar Makarau (BLR)
Keiji Suzuki (JPN)
Ryoko Tani (JPN)
Dongmei Xian (CHN)
Yvonne Boenisch (GER)
Ayumi Tanimoto (JPN)
Masae Ueno (JPN)
Noriko Anno (JPN)
Maki Tsukada (JPN)