Belo Horizonte calling for British Judo athletes

Ahead of some of the next International Judo Federation (IJF) world tour events, British Judo athletes from the junior, senior and visually impaired teams will be based at Belo Horizonte, Brazil, where they will test out the facilities between 8 and 20 October, writes Donna Richardson.

With the Rio Olympic qualification period now officially open, the months ahead are crucial as judoka hoping to represent Great Britain are looking to get as many world ranking points as possible under their belts. As aspiring Rio 2016 Olympians, being at the place where they may well be based in the weeks ahead of the Games, should get them into a winning mindset.

London 2012 Olympians and Commonwealth medallists Ashley McKenzie (-60kg), Colin Oates and Sally Conway will be testing out the facilities they will enjoy in the weeks leading up to Rio 2016. Their main focus will be on preparing for future IJF world tour events for which they have been selected.

Current Olympic and Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth silver medallist Gemma Gibbons joins her team-mates as she continues on her road to recovery in time to qualify for Rio 2016.

She said: “I am really looking forward to going to Brazil. I’ve been to Rio before but I’ve never been to Belo Horizonte and it is good to be on the mat again. My ankle is getting better and we are on track to recovery. When you can put a judo suit on that is a great sign although I have some way until I get back into randori.”

Women’s lead coach Kate Howey added: “The camp will be good because the players involved will get access to a style of fighting that they don’t normally get.

“In terms of the Rio Olympics it is good to go to Belo Horizonte and find out from a strategic point what the holding camp will be like and the facilities. The players have an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the climate and the facilities in offer for the holding camp, so it’s not all new come 2016.”

The Junior World Team set to compete in Fort Lauderdale in the USA on 22 to 26 October will join the senior players as they step up their training.

Most of the Juniors are based full time at the British Judo the Centre of Excellence in Walsall and are aiming for Tokyo 2020. For them it will be the a chance of a lifetime to train at Belo Horizonte’, the place where the future Great Britain Olympic squad will be based ahead of Rio 2016.

Ben Fletcher (-100kg) will be back in action for the first time since July, after he was unable to represent England at the Commonwealth Games due to injury.

Commonwealth bronze medallist Jemima Yeats-Brown (-63kg), Lucy Renshall at the same weight plus Ebony Drysdale-Daley and Jemima Duxberry (both -70kg).

Under 60kg double cadet championship bronze medallist Neil MacDonald (-60kg), Sam Hall (-60kg) and George Smith (-90kg) are also all in action.

The Visually Impaired Squad and potential Paralympic team are using the opportunity to set themselves on the road to Rio.

2014 Senior World VI bronze medallist at -81kg Jono Drane is looking forward to the event – his first since winning his world medal. He is joined by 2013 Junior World VI Champion Chris Skelley and Gavin Towers.

Two time Paralympian (silver and bronze medallist) Sam Ingram (-90kg) is back in training following a minor injury that prevented him competing at the Senior VI Worlds, an event of which he is a former champion.

The training programme will be quite intense for the team, with randori sessions, strength and conditioning, speed and agility, regeneration, technical and prehabilitation all on the menu for the senior and visually impaired teams.

The Junior World Team will be following a similar programme. This completes a ten week programme led by Jamie Johnson.