The 2014 European Championships are set to take place in Montpellier, France from April 24 to 27 providing the final chance to gain ranking points towards qualification for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
In the year that marks the 50th anniversary of Olympic judo as well as the qualification cycle for Rio 2016, London 2012 Olympian Sally Conway (-70kg) of Edinburgh will be in action in the individual championships for women, as she looks to secure her points for her bid to represent Scotland ahead of the Commonwealths. Fresh from silver success in Dusseldorf and Samsun, she hopes to continue in shining with success.
“I am excited about the Europeans and I am preparing to put in a good performance,” said Conway.
“If I can do this I feel I can come away with a medal which I really want to achieve.”
Another Olympian in the shape of Ashley McKenzie (-60kg), who won a bronze medal at last year’s European Championships and will be hoping to go for gold in the individual men’s competition in his bid to qualify for the Games, fighting for England.
“I am happy to be in the position to be able to fight again as our selection criteria was pretty tough,” said McKenzie.
“It is an amazing chance to get points for the ranking list and to have a good position on the world ranking when the 2016 Rio qualification starts.
“I am honoured to represent Camberley Judo Club and I hope I will have a good day in the office like I did last year.”
Having recently struck gold in South America, McKenzie of Queens Park, North London, will fight alongside his Camberley team-mate Nathon Burns (-66kg) originally from Blackburn.
It will be the first Senior European Championships for the 25 year old judoka and he has the rostrum in sight.
“It is really exciting to be selected for my first European Championships. it is just time to go and fight my hardest out there.
“I’m very grateful and lucky to have an incredible coach and club who have supported me and done their upmost best to get me to the places to qualify for these European Championships.
Fresh from his bronze medal win at the Samsun Grand Prix, Norwich judoka Colin Oates (-66kg) of Kumo, who finished seventh at London 2012 will also be in action, hoping to step up and medal again three years after he last collected a European bronze and two years since his last appearance there.
“I took a bronze three years ago at the Europeans, but I missed out last year due to injury.
“I am glad to be back at one of the most prestigious events of the year.
“It feels good to go to it off the back of Turkey and I am feeling confident I will do my best out there.”
Pinewood and Team Bath’s Megan Fletcher of Wokingham (-70kg), a former European Cadet bronze medallist, who recently struck gold and silver at the Pan American Open in Uruguay and Argentina, will also be looking forward to showcasing her skills on the European stage again. This time she will be targeting a medal, having finished ninth last year.
“I was surprised I got selected and really happy given that last year I lost to the eventual silver medallist, so a lot depends on the draw,” said Fletcher, who recently graduated from Bath University and now works as a part-time geography teacher in Bristol alongside her judo activities.
“That said, my medals at the Pan American Opens will give me confidence to go into the Europeans again and it also gives me more opportunities to get selected for Grand Prix events.
“My brother Ben is really doing well too. He only just missed out on selections, but we are both doing our clubs Pinewood and Team Bath proud.
“Our late coach Don Werner instilled in us and other Pinewood players the mindset for success.
“Even though we are both now based in Bath, both clubs are like our second family.”
Natalie Powell (78kg) who trains at Irfon in Wales and has had a successful run at Grand Prix events most recently silver in Samsun, will also be in action ahead of the Games where she hopes to be fighting for Wales.
Fighting in the teams championships will be Nathon Burns of Camberley (-66kg), Patrick Dawson of Edinburgh (- 73kg), Owen Livesey of S.K.K/Camberley (-81kg), Gary Hall of Ryu Genki (-90kg) and Chris Sherrington of Royal Marines of Edinburgh (+90kg).
The women’s team consists of Kelly Edwards of Wrekin Star (-52kg), Connie Ramsay of Edinburgh (-57kg), Jodie Mullen (-63kg), Megan Fletcher (-70kg) of Pinewood plus Team Bath and Jodie Myers (+70kg) of S.K.K.
The latest outlines can be found here. For more information visit the EJU website.
Watch the European Championship live at www.ippontv.org
Words by Donna Richardson.