Following today’s draw, the British quartet of Dan Powell, Elliot Stewart, Chris Skelley and Jack Hodgson have now found out who they will face off against in their bid for Tokyo glory.
The excitement is palpable in Tokyo following ParalympicGB’s first medal wins of the Games earlier today, and our British judoka will be looking to carve their name into the history books as they take to the mat at the legendary Nippon Budokan.
The competition is due to get underway on Friday in Tokyo, but Dan Powell will be GB’s first representative as he takes on Brazil’s Harlley Damiano Pereira Arruda in the opening round of the -81kg competition.
Powell has a strong judo background in his family – his father Terry is a two-time Paralympic bronze medallist. Powell made his Paralympic debut, alongside his brother Marc, at London 2012. After stepping away from the sport in 2013 to focus on athletics, he re-joined the British Judo squad in 2018 and is currently ranked eighth in the world.
Powell will need to reverse a losing trend against the Brazilian with Arruda coming out on top in their two previous fights – back in London for the Paralympic Games in 2012 and Powell’s return to the judo tatami at the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2018.
Elliot Stewart makes his Paralympic debut after his sight began to deteriorate in 2016. The World and European bronze medallist is currently ranked fourth in the world.
The 33-year-old hails from an impressive judo family – his father Dennis was Olympic bronze medallist at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, the same year Stewart was born.
For Stewart, his selection is the realisation of a dream: “It has always been a dream of mine to compete at a Games. It feels amazing that I now get to represent ParalympicsGB, at the home of judo, at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.”
Elliot received a bye in the opening round of the -90kg competition and will take on either the 2016 Rio Paralympic Bronze medallist Shukhrat Boboev or Moldova’s Oleg Cretul.
2017 European champion Chris Skelley will spearhead the squad in Tokyo and flies to Japan as the No.1 ranked fighter in the -100kg category. Narrowly missing out on a medal at Rio 2016, where he finished fifth, the 2018 World Championship bronze medallist recently won silver and bronze at the Baku and Warwick IBSA Judo Grand Prix.
Skelley has fought all of his opponents in his weight category and is relishing the opportunity to establish himself as the World Number 1. Following a bye, he will take on Uzbekistan’s World No. 8 Sharif Khalilov who won Silver in the Asian & Oceanic Championships in 20219 or Azerbaijan’s Kanan Abdullakhanli – who claimed Gold at the Warwick Grand Prix earlier this year.
Former world junior champion Jack Hodgson finished seventh on his Paralympic debut at Rio 2016. Hodgson is the current European Championship bronze medallist and is ranked seventh in the world – a significant achievement for the 24-year-old who has endured multiple injuries and setbacks in recent years.
Hodgson will come against Azerbaijan’s Ilham Zakiyev – who was Hodgson’s first ever international opponent back in 2014. Zakiyev is a legend of the Paralympic circuit but Hodgson is now a much more experience fighter and will be a totally different prospect for Azerbaijan fighter.
British Judo Paralympic Head Coach Ian Johns is full of confidence that his guys can perform when it matters the most.
“The four lads that have qualified have given everything, and more, to try and keep the focus of their training in very uncertain times towards what will be the most talked about Games in history.”
“We have had a tremendous preparation camp in Keio and the team are ready. Hopefully they can best perform and if they do then they are sure to get the success that their efforts deserve.”
“We have a small but very experienced team that will be going all out to make British Judo, ParalympicsGB and the judo community as proud of them as possible.”
The preliminary round action is due to get underway at 10:30am (JPN time) which is 2:30am UK time so set those alarms clock early! In a slight change to reported timings, Final Block will then take place at 16:00 (JPN) (8:00am UK) on 27th & 28th August and 16:30 (JPN) (8:30am UK) on 29th August.