GB Judo Team set for European Stage

The 70th edition of European Championships get underway tomorrow with 16 British Judo fighters travelling to Sofia, Bulgaria for the three-day Championships.

The Arena Armeec will play host to over 360 competitors all vying to be crowned European Champion.

GB Judo has great history at the European Championships with multiple previous medallists due to compete.

Friday 29th

Tokyo Olympic bronze medallist Chelsie Giles takes to the mat on the opening day of the European Championships. Giles won bronze at the European Games in 2019 which signalled the start of her ascent towards the top of the -52kg world rankings.

Seeded 3rd, Giles will face Aleksandra Kaleta (POL) in Round 2. Giles last faced Kaleta, the 2021 Antalya Grand Slam bronze medallist, in 2016 at the European Junior Cup in Berlin, where Giles was victorious.

Sam Hall and Ashley McKenzie compete in the -60kg category.

At the age of 26, Hall makes his senior European Championship debut. A former European Junior Championship silver medallist Hall competes internationally for the first time since his bronze medal at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam last November.

Hall will face Francisco Mendes (POR) in the opening round.

On the other end of the experience scale, McKenzie competes at his 10th European Championships, having made his senior debut back in 2011. The two-time European Championship bronze medallist will face Matan Kokolayev (ISR) in the opening round.

Making her second appearance at the senior European Championships, Acelya Toprak competes in the -57kg category. A former European Junior Championship silver medallist, Toprak will face Arleta Podolak (POL) in her opening round contest. The pair have only met on one previous occasion where Toprak was victorious.

Gregg Varey and Alexander Short both make their senior European Championship debuts in the -66kg category.

At the age of 33, for Varey this will be both his first, and final, appearance at the European Championships; after announcing that this will be his final year competing.

Varey has enjoyed somewhat of a purple patch in the latter part of his career, after finishing 7th at the Antalya Grand Slam 12-months ago. After becoming a parent in 2020, Varey attributes his recent form to becoming a dad and just enjoying the sport.

Drawn in Pool B, Varey will face the 2022 Prague European Open silver medallist, Elios Manzi (ITA) in Round 2, following an opening round bye.

Meanwhile, Judo Scotland’s Short has been drawn in Pool D and has an opening round contest against number 3 seed and recent Tel Aviv Grand Slam champion Baruch Shmailov (ISR).

Saturday 30th

Lucy Renshall (featured image) heads to Sofia in the form of her life. The disappointment of Tokyo last summer is a distant memory as she now finds herself on the cusp of being promoted to the top of the -63kg IJF world rankings.

Seeded 1st, Renshall has an opening round bye and will face either Laura Fazliu (KOS) or Keren Primo (ISR).

Joining Renshall in the -63kg category is Gemma Howell. Howell recently picked up a career best finish at a Grand Slam as she claimed silver in Tel Aviv in February. Howell is no stranger to the European Championships having won a bronze medal whilst competing at the -70kg weight category. She will face the 2021 Paris Grand Slam champion Barbara Timo (POR) in the opening round. The pair have met on just one previous occasion, the 2020 Paris Grand Slam bronze medal contest, where Howell was victorious.

Former European Junior Champion, Kelly Petersen-Pollard makes her senior European Championship debut. The 22-yr old has made a seamless transition to the senior ranks following her successful Junior career, picking up three Grand Slam bronze medals. Seeded 6th, Petersen-Pollard will face 18yr old Yuliia Kurchenko (UKR) in Round One.

Following the Tokyo cycle, Jemima Yeats-Brown stepped back down to the -70kg category for the Paris cycle having previously competed at -78kg. A former European U23 Championship silver medallist, Yeats-Brown will face 2020 European U23 Championship bronze medallist, Ida Eriksson (SWE) in her opening round contest.

Lachlan Moorhead and Stuart McWatt compete in the -81kg category.

A European Junior Championship bronze medallist back in 2019, Moorhead makes his senior European Championship debut in Sofia. Drawn in Pool C, Moorhead has an opening round bye and will face the winner of the opening round contest between Mihail Latisev (MDA) and Edi Sherifovski (MKD).

After finishing 7th at the 2019 European Games McWatt now competes at his third senior European Championships. Injury cruelly ended McWatt’s Tokyo selection bid, but he returned to competition in February after 12 months out. McWatt will face world number one, Matthias Casse (BEL) in Round 2 following an opening round bye.

Completing the day 2 line up is Daniel Powell who fights in the -73kg category. Powell is another fighter making his senior European Championship debut. The 2017 European U23 Championship bronze medallist will face recent Antalya Grand Slam bronze medallist, Salvador Cases-Roca (ESP) in Round 2, following an opening round bye.

Sunday 1st

Emma Reid and Natalie Powell compete in the -78kg category. Reid makes her senior European Championship debut whilst three-time bronze medallist Powell makes her 8th European Championship appearance.

Reid heads to Sofia ranked 7th and will face 2021 European U23 Champion, Patricia Sampaio (POR) in Round 2, following an opening round bye. Meanwhile Powell, who also has an opening round bye, will face number four seed and recent Tel Aviv Grand Slam champion, Beata Pacut (POL) in her opening contest. The pair have met on five previous occasion, with Powell winning on four occasions.

Rhys Thompson is the final fighter making his European Championship debut. The 25yr old, Birmingham University Physiotherapy student and -100kg British Champion will face Bojan Dosen (SRB) in Round 1.

Unfortunately, Jamal Petgrave has had to withdraw from the -90kg competition due to injury.

A special mention also for Lisa Rivers, who has been selected as a referee for the Championships.

Preliminary Round action starts at 07:30am (BST) on Friday and Saturday and 08:00am Sunday.

Final Block is scheduled to commence at 14:00 on each day.

You can watch all the action from the European Championships LIVE on the British Judo homepage each day.

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