Hundreds of youngsters are gearing up for the British Schools Championships, taking place on Saturday 7 March in Sheffield. Some 525 young judoka have signed up for the event, and they are now ready to compete across seven mats.
With 65 medals on offer across a range of age categories, this is truly set to be an exciting extravaganza and spectators can expect a great judo day out, perhaps even make a weekend of it by staying on to watch the English Open.
The event is an opportunity for school aged children to showcase their talents on a national level, and perhaps capture the attention of those in charge of the performance pathway. The ultimate prize is to be crowned British Schools champion of their weight category.
Twins Eve and Rachel Jackson, together with their brother Joe and sister Grace, all from Middlesborough, are all looking forward to competing at the event. The 12-year old twins, who are in year seven, represent in the middle of the family, with elder sister Grace, 14, being the first one to take up the sport. Brother Joe followed the twins onto the mat soon after, having in turn inspired the twins to take up football.
At the British School event, the twins will represent Macmillan Academy and both will compete in the same -36kg class. Their brother Joe, 11, will compete at -30kg category for St Clare’s Roman Catholic Primary School. Grace who also attends MacMillan academy will be competing in the year 10 girls -52kg category.
Eve, the elder twin by two minutes, said: “We are ready for the School competition and we have been preparing by attending extra technical sessions. We are excited to fight and to meet opponents. I may meet my sister at some point. She usually wins but I beat her last week for the first time. I am ready for this competition.” Rachel added: “This is the first time we have competed at the British Schools, so we are really excited. We do everything together, and although we are not identical we do know what the other is thinking.”
Not only are the twins good at judo, training twice a month with Olympian Chloe Cowan Vickers and Mike Caveney at Gateshead, they are also keen footballers playing for the Football Associations (FA) Girls Centre of Excellence, based at Teesside University. During their time there they have also attracted the attention of the England football talent scouts and are hoping to be selected for the elite player centre at the end of the season.
Another set of twins; Jasmine and Joshua Teal are also looking forward to the event. Their dad Mark Teal is a British Masters Champion and he and the twins been members of Bishop Stortford Judo Kwai for two years.
2013 Schools Champion in the -63kg class Chloe Chamberlain, 15, has won almost every schools competition since she entered the competition as a year seven pupil. She said: “I am really looking forward to the event, I have been preparing by eating healthily and training really hard to stay in the -63kg category, after fighting up a weight last year which cost me a medal as the girls were much heavier. I have been developing my judo and techniques in readiness for the event.”
Mary Tomblin, 11, of Catmose College, formerly of Brooke Hill Academy, Oakham is also focusing on preparing for the British Schools Championships in Sheffield.
Mary has been doing judo for more than four years. In May she attended her first training camp in Sweden. She also won the Pierre Barnes Memorial trophy.
She said: “I can’t wait to compete at the British Schools competition for my school Catmose College. I enjoyed the event last year and I am sure it will be just as good this year”.
Additionally there will be 14 young referees on the mats on the Saturday. Some are staying over to operate the care cameras at the English Open the next day. Young Nathan Gallacher won young referee of the day award will be back at the event again in another refereeing capacity this year.
The Ken Webber award for the outstanding young referee will be presented by Malcolm Collins, Chair of the Education Commission and the Jerry Hicks award for the outstanding young table Official will be presented by his daughter Kim Hicks before the start of the event. During the first weigh in, there will be a kata demonstration by members of the Samurai Judo Club.
Malcolm Collins, Chair of the British Schools Commission, said: “Volunteers are the lifeblood of this event and we welcome them back again this year.”
Sue Collins, member of the Education Commission with responsibility for competitions, added: “The commission is really pleased that there will two young referees and two young tables to each mat, as using young is something that we have been promoting for many years. We are looking forward to hosting a spectacular event.”
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Pictured: The Jacksons, photo supplied
Chloe Chamberlain and the -63kg champions from 2013.
Mary Tomblin is getting ready to take part in the British Schools event. Photo supplied
Photo by Mike Varey. Words by Donna Richardson.