A star-studded line up of Judoka ready for Rio

Olympians Gemma Gibbons, Ashley McKenzie, Colin Oates and Sally Conway on the World Championship team

Four London 2012 Olympians, including silver medallist Gemma Gibbons, will compete at the most exciting events of the Judo calendar – the biggest competition for the sport outside the Olympic Games- the 2013 Senior World Championships, in Rio De Janeiro between Monday 26 and Saturday 31 August.

Ashley McKenzie, who represented GB at London 2012, will kick start the action for Britain in the beautiful Brazilian capital on Monday 26 August as he takes on the men’s -60kg competition. McKenzie is one of the most explosive and talented young judoka in the sport and capable of taking on anyone on his day- having claimed victories over European medallist Ludwig Paischer as well as former world and European champion Georgi Zantariaia of Ukraine. Now the European bronze medallist, currently ranked 12 in the world, is aiming to come home with another medal to add to his collection.

“I’m both excited and nervous for the Worlds next week in Rio. I have been steadily improving with each tournament that I get under my belt and I just hope that I can add a World medal to the European one that I got earlier this year,” Ashley said.

“Whatever the outcome I am happy to have been selected and will learn a great deal from the experience of competing against the best judokas in the world. As always I will try my absolute hardest like I do every time I represent my country.”

Tuesday will be the turn of Norfolk Judoka Colin Oates (-66kg) on the tatami. The athlete showed his stand-out talent to the world as he finished seventh place at London 2012 on his own Olympic debut. This year, Oates returned from injury to win a superb silver in the San Salvador Continental Open and repeated the result more recently at the prestigious Moscow Grand Slam. In Rio he will be hoping to pick up more silverware – perhaps a gold?

Meanwhile, twenty-year old Nekoda Davis, (-57kg) makes her senior world championships debut, off the back of an impressive junior career on Wednesday. She may be small in stature but not ability, with a gold in Kiev amongst other medals at junior level.

Last year Davis was a gamesmaker at London 2012, but now she makes an important step towards the next Olympics.

Her first time in Rio will see Davis pit her wits against the very same judoka who she could potentially fight in the carnival city in three years, if she qualifies for Rio 2016.

Jan Gosiewski will also compete in his first World Championships on Wednesday, and has indicated he has confidence about getting amongst the medals in the -73kg division, following a silver at the European Open in Tallinn and a bronze in the World Cup in Warsaw.

But Friday is the perhaps going to be the most popular day for viewers, as many will start their weekend early by tuning in to ippon.tv to watch London 2012 Olympic silver medallist Gemma Gibbons lead the way for GB’s women.

Gibbons who took victory in Dusseldorf earlier this year, recently returned from injury to win bronze in Moscow, setting the seven-time world cup medallist up with confidence for the World Championships. She is hoping to win her first world’s and place that medal next to her Olympic silver.

On the same day, Gibbons will be joined by Welsh fighter Natalie Powell, who is already proving herself as a high achiever in Gemma’s weight category. Potentially both girls could face each other at some point in the competition on the same tatami. And Sally Conway will also step on the mat on Friday. Also a London 2012 veteran Conway will be fighting in Gibbons’ former weight category of -70kg. Now Conway is considered as one of the world’s most tenacious and physical female fighters and the best in her weight, having claimed Silver in the Olympic Test Event in 2011.

This year she also took gold in the IJF Samsun Grand Prix, a bronze in Baku and fifth-place finishes at the 2009 World Championships and IJF Grand Slam’s in Moscow and Paris.

Saturday sees the finale’ for both men and women when heavyweights Sarah Adlington (+78kg) and Philip Awiti-Alcaraz (-100kg) will be hoping to make one last push to up the medal tally.

Adlington is a two-time u23 European Championship bronze medallist from Scotland who is making a name for herself as a medal threat in the heavyweight category. Even more so, since the departure of Karina Bryant from the sport. She took bronze in the recent Moscow Grand Slam and has multiple fifth-place finishes in star-studded Grand Prix and Slam events, which places her as a firm favourite for further honours.

And last but not least, Awiti, who has just turned twenty, heads to Rio in fine form after winning gold at the European Junior Cup event in Berlin. Other performances of note include claiming the European cup in Bosnia early this year. Following Rio, like his team-mate Davis, Awiti will be looking to boost his senior world rankings to win the chance to return to the Brazilian capital in 2016 – this time potentially as an Olympian.

Competition Low Down

Monday 26 Aug 2013: -60kg, -48kg (Ashley McKenzie)

Tuesday 27 Aug 2013: -66kg, -52kg (Colin Oates)

Wednesday 28 Aug 2013: -73kg, -57kg (Jan Gosiewski and Nekoda Davis)

Thursday 29 Aug 2013: -81kg, -63kg Friday 30 Aug 2013: -90kg, -70kg, -78kg (Sally Conway, Gemma Gibbons, Natalie Powell)

Saturday 31 August 2013: -100kg, +100kg, +78kg (Philip Awiti-Alcaraz and Sarah Adlington).

The action begins at 2pm BST (10am in Rio) each day, with the final block due to start at 9pm BST (5pm in Rio) each day and will be broadcast live on Ippon TV 

Words by Donna Richardson and Photos courtesy of Mike Varey