Double Dutch for Judo Mum and Son who won bronze in Venray

Success must surely run in the family for Claire Harrison and her son Jake McKenna who each won bronze medals for Middlesborough-based Southlands Judo Club during a recent international Judo event in the Netherlands.

Claire, 29, from Thornaby, fought for the senior women in the Venray International Judo Tournament 2013 between 8 and 9 June 2013 in the +78kg category while her son, aged 9, competed in the -38kg contest for U10s.

Venray is a self-funding event where clubs, regions and the English squad members from the British Judo Association (BJA) regions come together. In total – England, the clubs and regions, took home 23 medals including five golds and seven silvers with the remainder bronze.

Claire, a Venray veteran, said: “It was a tough competition and we fought well. I am really pleased that we came away with four bronze medals for the club.

“I am chuffed to win and it was my son’s first international competition so I am over the moon for him.”

Claire has been doing judo since the age of six alongside her two brothers and sisters. She went on to represent her country as on both the England and GB Squads. Jake has been doing judo since he was a toddler, but entered his first international judo competition this year, aged eight.

“It’s just one big judo family – literally,” Claire laughed.

“I started judo because my elder brother did it and I loved the thrill of the competitions. I would love for my son to follow in our footsteps and to be selected for GB, and he is doing well so that may well happen.

“Southlands is very much a family club – in fact judo on the whole is very much like one big family. When you practice judo as a family everyone knows what to do so it is easy to plan your routine around judo and competitions. We all work together to achieve the same goals and it makes us a stronger family unit.”

Southlands also scooped two more bronze medals from Joseph McNeill and Josh Illingworth.

Mike Caveney, the British Judo Coach who runs Southlands, said: “It is a fantastic success for the club. Claire is a cracking asset to the club and helped to organise the trip to Venray. The results that her and the rest of the kids at the club were phenomenal and these have exceeded all of our expectations for such a high quality event.”

Matt Divall, England Programme Manager for the British Judo Association, added: “These are great results, particularly as Claire used to be an ex- England and GB international. To see her still in the game is fantastic for British Judo and for her club. For her son also to get a result in an event of that standing is a great result. I remember Claire and I think it is great she is still involved and with Judo.

“Venray gives players valuable experience in dealing with different cultures, which in the long run will help to prepare them for being potential England or GB players.”

Claire is also an instructor in Southlands new ladies-only Judofit sessions. To find out more contact

Words by Donna Richardson.