Alice Schlesinger led the way for Team GB’s judo squad winning silver in the women’s -63kg competition at the Chizhovka Arena on Day 2 of competition at the European Games.
Alice dispatched Ukrainian Yuliia Hrebenozhko and Austrian Magdalena Krssakova with consecutive ippon scores in round one and two. In rounds 3 and 4, close fights against German Martyna Trajdos and Italian Maria Centracchio went to golden score, with Alice getting her tactics just right to proceed first to the semis and then to the final. In the final Alice was up against formidable French fighter and three time world champion Clarisse Agbegnenou, Alice fought well, but her opponent’s pedigree eventually told and Alice had to settle for silver.
Alice was positive about the result saying: “I’m feeling good. It was a good day for me overall. There are a few things I need to improve for the next tournament, but overall it was a good day.” On the European Games experience more broadly, Alice commented: “It’s been amazing, everything about it, all the people, all the team supporting you. If you need anything, everyone’s there to make you feel as comfortable as possible.” Looking ahead Alice said: “Next tournament is the Grand Prix in Croatia in a couple of weeks. In judo you can’t really build on results so you have to come to every competition and do your best and what happened previously doesn’t really matter. So that’s all I’m going to do.”
In the men’s -81kg category Stuart McWatt fought superbly through the early rounds, beating some top fighters, including Romanian Marcel Cercea and Turkey’s well-seeded Vedat Albayrak displaying excellent technique in both. A slow start in the quarter-finals, however, meant Stuart was knocked into repechage by Georgian Luka Maisuradze. A tight fight against German Alexander Wieczerzak, saw Stuart leading early on only to get pinned back, ended with 4 seconds to go as Stuart’s arm was caught and held up costing him the fight and the chance to fight for bronze.
Reflecting on his performance Stuart said: “The first two fights I thought went really well, especially the second fight against one of the top-seeded players, so to beat him and get to the quarters was really good on its own. The quarter final fight I came out a bit slow and got whacked. The final fight I thought I was fighting well but two mistakes cost me the fight. It’s my first senior mixed sport event, it has been really different. It definitely puts you in good stead trying to qualify for the Olympics next year, if I do make it, hopefully I do, I’ll have been in this environment before and be prepared for the competition.”
Elsewhere, Lucy Renshall, Gemma Howell and Flagbearer Sally Conway were all disappointed to lose in the early rounds. Reflecting on the defeat and European Games more broadly Sally was upbeat:
“Leading into the competition I felt my preparation had been going really well. I felt my judo was in a really good place, but it just goes to show that on the day one mistake costs you the fight and that’s you out of the competition. But up to that point I’d been feeling really good, with the World Championships only a couple months away now I’ve got that to work towards. I can go back to the drawing board, have a couple of months off and try and make a few things right ahead of the World Championships.
“It’s one of the best experiences ever at the European Games in terms of being the flagbearer for Team GB – I couldn’t have been happier. I just wish it could have had a happy ending with a European medal but unfortunately this time it didn’t happen. And I hope to do better at the World Championships.”
Gemma Howell, on the mat next to Sally lost to France’s Margeaux Pinot, a disappointed Gemma commented: “No scores, I just lost it on tactics. Unfortunately she just beat me on grip every time. I can work on my judo and I just need to keep building on it. There are lots of different styles in judo and that’s just one particular style I need to go away and work on.”
After two days of medals, the judo team will be hoping their success continues into the third day of competition at the Chizhovka Arena with Max Stewart (-90kg), Frazer Chamberlain (-90kg), Sarah Adlington (+78kg), Natalie Powell (-78kg) and Jemima Yeats-Brown (-78kg) all competing in a strong line up.