ParalympicsGB’s judo team marked the opening day of the Paralympic Games in style as world number one Ben Quilter won bronze at the ExCeL Arena.
Quilter, 30, the reigning Visually Impaired (VI) European and world champion, was out to improve on the fifth-place he achieved in his Paralympic debut in Beijing
Brighton-born Quilter was the number one seed which saw him receive a first round bye and start his campaign in the quarter-final as there were only 12 judoka in the -60kg category.
Reining Paralympic champion Mouloud Noura of Algeria was not seeded by IBSA (International Blind Sports Federation) and won his first round bout to book a clash against Quilter for a place in the semi-final.
The sell-out crowd erupted as Quilter entered the arena to face one of the categories top judoka.
After a breathless opening Quilter fell behind to two quick fire yuko scores before being thrown for ippon.
Quilter returned to action in the repechage and immediately responded with an emphatic win against Mongolian Munkhbat Aajim by ippon with a koshi-guruma to the delight of the jubilant crowd.
Quilter moved on to fight America’s Paralympic debutant Ronald Hawthorne for a place in the bronze medal contest.
In his third outing the Briton took control of the bout with two yuko scores as he produced his best judo of the Games so far. Quilter countered an attack from Hawthorne for waza-ari before following up with a hold-down for ippon to seal a place in the bronze medal contest.
Standing between Quilter and a Paralympic bronze medal was Japan’s Takaaki Hirai.
Quilter entered the ExCeL arena for the final time to the biggest entrance reaction of the day and looked a remarkably composed figure as he made his way to the tatami.
Quilter saved his best to last as he countered a swift Hirai attack to hold the Japanese judoka for ippon in a stunning opening minute victory.
After stepping off the tatami Quilter said: “It was a long journey to come back after my opening fight, I’ve had an amazing three years in the build-up to the Games and I’m not used to losing.
“Seven weeks ago I tore my ACL and ruptured the knee ligament and there was huge question marks of whether I’d be here today so to have won bronze is fantastic.
“I was far from my best today but I had enough [to win bronze] and the support helped me so much, I’m absolutely overjoyed. I didn’t want to let anyone down, especially myself and I owe a lot to my coaching team, my teammates and my fiancée.”