British team ready for latest Grand Slam

The IPIC Arena in Abu Dhabi is the latest stop on the road to Rio as a seven strong British Judo team look to gain valuable Rio Olympic qualification points at the 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Slam from Friday 30 October to Sunday 1 November.

First up on Friday will be Nekoda Davies (-57kg) and Ashley McKenzie (-60kg) with both judoka looking to boost their qualification hopes and add to their 2015 medal hauls with strong showings.

Davies gets her competition underway against world ranked No.47 Arleta PODOLAK (POL) in the first round of the -57kg category while McKenzie takes on Simon YACOUB (PLE), ranked No.152 in the world, in his first contest of the day.

On Saturday it’s the turn of Baku Grand Slam winner Sally Conway (-70kg) and Dusseldorf Grand Prix gold medallist Alice Schlesinger (-63kg) as they step on the mat.

Schlesinger will take on Mariana SILVA (BRA) in her first contest, with the Brazilian ranked 18th in the world, only seven places below the British judoka. Conway will face off against Khulan BATBAATAR in the second round of the -70kg category having received a bye.

On Sunday Natalie Powell (-78kg), Gemma Gibbons (-78kg) and Ben Fletcher (-100kg) will have their opportunity to go for medals with both Gibbons and Powell coming off the back of medals at the Tashkent Grand Prix and placings at the Paris Grand Slam.

Both of the -78kg players have received byes into the second round where Powell will take on either Anastasiya DMITRIEVA (RUS) or Jacqueline USNAYO (CHI). Gibbons will have to wait for result of the contest between Lkhamdegd PUREVJARGAL (MGL) and Kaouthar OUALLAL (ALG) to find out who her first opponent will be.

Fletcher will be up against world ranked No.3 Cyrille MARET (FRA) in his first fight as he looks to add a Grand Slam medal to his collection.

Speaking ahead of the competition Elite Performance Coach Kate Howey emphasised the importance of putting in good performances on the day:

“This is the fourth Grand Slam of the year so far and we have had good results so far.

“Of course we want medals but more importantly it is about the players’ performances and if they perform as they can they will be in and around the medals and more importantly gaining valuable points towards Rio.”

This sentiment was echoed by fellow Elite Performance Coach Jean-Paul Bell:

“As with all Grand Slams this will be a tough event and looking at the entry, with 100% Olympic points it will certainly rival Paris the other week.

“We are looking forward to the event as we have a group of athletes that have performed well at this level all year and are capable of winning medals.

“The focus as always is delivering the best performances on the day.”

You can watch all the action LIVE on from 6AM GMT and on Twitter @BritishJudo with the hashtags #WeAreGBJudo #JudoAbuDhabi2015