Centre of Excellence athletes ready for Commonwealth Games

British Judo Athletes based at the Centre of Excellence have been preparing for the Commonwealth Games. The centre in Walsall was the stage for Open National Squad Training (ONST) this weekend and we caught up with some of the players who are embedded into the centralised programme.

Team England’s Nekoda Davis of Acton, London originally trained at Ealing Judo Club but made the move to the Centre of Excellence in Walsall last year. The -57kg fighter Nekoda Davis is an aspiring 2016 Olympian based full-time at the British Judo Centre of Excellence.

This is her second year as a senior after last year juggling a hectic junior and senior diary. She won the Senior European Cup in Sarajevo, gained two bronze medals at the European Opens in Lisbon and Madrid and finish off her final 12 months in the junior squad with a bronze medal at the U21 European Championships in September, having been number one at junior level for most of the year.

She stepped up to the senior squad full time after becoming British Champion at -57kg class in December 2013. She was awarded female Junior Player of the Year and this year took bronze in Madrid. “I am really excited to be competing in the Commonwealth Games.

“It is a real honour to be competing and this will stay with me forever. This is the first time I have felt a lot of pressure, apart from the Worlds and I feel like I have a good chance of medalling.”

Jodie Myers originally of Moreton, Wirrall trained at S.K.K before moving to Walsall.

At the Games, she will fight in the +78kg category for England.

It has been quite a year for the teenager who won a gold medal at the British Championships followed by three bronze medals at EJU U21 Cups, taking silver and bronze at senior cups too. Her biggest competition to date was the Junior World Championships where she beat Junior European Champion Aleksandra Babintceva of Russia by a yuko, to progress to the next round but lost by two yukos to Ivana Sutalo of Croatia in the second round of the +78kg women’s category despite a strong performance throughout.

Jodie said: “It’s very exciting. This time last year I didn’t think I would be going to the Commonwealths but then I got a few medals this year and it is a great surprise. I am going to do everything I can to win a medal.”

Caroline Kinnane, also a Team England player, is self-funding at the Centre of Excellence. She moved from Winslow, Buckinghamshire (Renrukan) to train alongside the players in Walsall and is -78kg player, Caroline gained gold and silver at Pan American Open in Montevideo and Buenos Aires last year and cemented her place in the Commonwealth Games by gaining a further gold at the European Cup in Sarajevo.

This year she has won the English Senior Open in Sheffield off the back of a silver medal in the British Championships in Sheffield and winning the Northern Ireland Open in Belfast. In 2012 she took gold in the Commonwealth Championships open weight and silver in the -78kg category.

“Preparations are going really well and I am getting very excited. This is the first time I will be competing in a Commonwealth Games.  It will be an amazing experience,” she said.

Meanwhile Scottish based Chris Sherrington from Broxburn also trains at the centre and is looking forward to representing Scotland in the +100kg class.

Originally from Billing, near Wigan, Olympian and Royal Marine Commando Chris Sherrington moved to Scotland nine years ago on a full time Royal Navy sports draft to take advantage of what he considered to be the best judo training in the UK. He has taken medals all over the world including the Samoa World Cup Gold, Turkey Grand Prix Bronze, British Open Gold and many more through his incredible judo career. During the London 2012 Olympics, he defeated his first opponent in a mere 24 seconds and continued to the next round, taking the fight to one of Russia’s best ever heavyweight judo players.

Despite losing that fight in golden score to the lowest score point available, Olympics judo commentators said Sherrington had “the most impressive Olympics debut performance you could ever talk about.”

Sherrington has proudly represented the Royal Navy throughout his judo career and is now focused on bringing back some Commonwealth Games medals for Scotland.

Heavyweight Mark Shaw (+100kg) of Newport also trains at the centre and may well go up against Sherrington for Wales.

Shaw has been afforded a twelve month secondment by the Royal Navy to train full time in pursue his goal of becoming a Commonwealth Games medallist. He has been based at the British Judo Centre of Excellence in Walsall and making use of the top class facilities and support.

“At the age of 35, I’m now approaching the end of my competitive judo career and competing for Wales at the Commonwealth Games is the perfect swansong.”

Words by Donna Richardson.