Hot on the heels of the Glasgow and Lisbon European Opens, Commonwealth judoka are getting ready for the Astana Grand Prix in Kazakhstan this weekend followed by another in Tashkent, Uzbekistan the week after, under the watch of Euan Burton, writes Donna Richardson.
The International Judo Federation (IJF) World Tour event carries even more ranking points for Great Britain’s athletes vying for a place on the Rio 2016 squad.
The team will be led into action by Commonwealth champion and Scottish team flagbearer Burton and Olympic bronze medallist Dennis Stewart, centre coach at the British Judo Centre of Excellence.
Burton, in his first international coaching appointment since retiring as a player after the Games, his first domestic IJF event being the Glasgow European Open, said: “The Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan Grand Prix events are the latest stage of the IJF World Tour and all of the athletes in attendance will be looking to secure valuable World Ranking and Olympic qualification points.
“There is a good mix of youth and experience within the GB team attending the events and they will all be looking forward to stepping out onto the mat and mixing it with the world’s best.”
Fellow Scottish judokas fighting at both events include Commonwealth Champions Louise Renicks (-52kg), and Sarah Adlington (+78kg) Glasgow 2014 silver medallist Stephanie Inglis (-57kg).
Jodie Mullen (-63kg) is looking forward to the event following her recent competition at the 2014 Glasgow European Open, where she took fifth place.
Adlington, who took bronze at the 2014 Glasgow European Open last weekend, said: “I am looking forward to the next two weeks as I’m going to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, where I hope to keep up the momentum from both Glasgow events.”
Meanwhile, Welsh Commonwealth Champion Natalie Powell (-78kg) will be in action along with England’s Commonwealth champion Megan Fletcher (-70kg) of Team Bath and Pinewood.
Commonwealth gold medallist for England Nekoda Davis (-57kg) of Ealing, who trains at the centre of excellence in Walsall will be fighting in Kazakhstan only alongside her partner Royal Air Force Lance Corporal Lewis Keeble (-66kg) who returns to the tatami after a period of injury.
Davis, who finished seventh this time in Glasgow, will fly home while, all being well, Keeble will continue to seek a medal in Uzbekistan.
Keeble said: “This is my First International event since recovering from my shoulder operation in January. It’s been a long, hard journey to get back to where I was before surgery, but I feel I ready to compete again. I know it will be tough but I’m looking forward to getting back on the mat and competing at a high level again.”
Team Bath/Devizes Tom Reed (-81kg), who took silver at the Commonwealth Games and a fifth last weekend in Portugal, will also be in action in both Grand Prix events.
Follow the draw: http://www.ippon.org/gp_kaz2014.php
Live action to be shown on Ippon TV: http://188.8.131.52/live/
Image Mike Varey elitepix.