Junior Player of the Year places at European Open

British Judo’s Junior Player of the Year, Nekoda Davis, looked at home on the European Open (formerly World Cup) stage as she finished in seventh-place in Oberwart, Austria on Saturday.

Ealing Judo Club starlet Davis, 19, who won two senior European Cup medals last year, showed a level of maturity and ability beyond her years as she faced everyone from fellow junior standouts to Olympic medallists.

In the opening round of the -57kg category Davis met Austria’s former Junior World bronze medallist Tina Zeltner, 20, who was hot off the heels of a superb seventh-place at the Paris Grand Slam.

The young standouts have gone toe-to-toe once before with world number 17 Zeltner winning that bout in October but Saturday was Davis’ day as she registered a commanding win by ouchi-gari for ippon.

Canada’s highly-talented youngster and US Open bronze medallist Nicole Jenicek, 20, was next up for the Londoner.

Davis stepped up the pace with the contest scoreless after four minutes to register her second successive victory by ippon.

With a place in the European Open semi-final at stake Davis lined up opposite Serbia’s world number nine and Rio Grand Slam winner Jovana Rogic.

The British teenager gave an excellent account of herself as the duo could only be separated after five minutes by a waza-ari in favour of the Serbian who went on to win bronze.  

Davis dropped to the repechage and was pitted against Brazil’s Beijing 2008 Olympic bronze medallist and world number 10 Ketleyn Quadros.

Davis stunned the Brazilian by going ahead with a waza-ari from a yama-arashi but Quadros bounced back and showed her class to take win by ippon before going on to win the bronze medal.

Also in -57kg action, London 2012 Olympian Sophie Cox of Bacup Judo Club held down Turkmenistan judoka Rushana Nurjovova to win by ippon.

In the second round Cox lost out to accomplished Japanese judoka and Korea World Cup winner Megumi Ishikawa who went on to win gold.

In the -48kg category, Stratford Judokwai’s former Junior World bronze medallist Hayley Willis, 17, lost out to high-quality Russian Rada Biktimirova by ippon.

Up in the -70kg category, SKK talent Amy Livesey was bested by Russian national champion Irina Gazieva.

British Judo Women’s coach Kate Howey said: “The competition was good and pretty strong with 32 countries taking part.

“All the players fought well, the event was about developing the players, three youngsters and Sophie Cox transitioning into her new weight at -57kg.

“Nekoda put in a great performance and it shows that she can mix it with the best.”

On the same weekend a four-strong men’s team fought at the Budapest European Open in Hungary.

In the opening round of the -66kg category, Camberley’s Nathon Burns registered a comfortable win over highly-regarded Austrian junior Andreas Tiefgraber by ippon.

Burns moved on to face Brazilian Charles Chibana who finished in fifth-place at the 2012 Rio Grand Slam.

In an even contest Burns made a slick transition into ne-waza and caught Chibana with a juji-gatame.

The armbar was firmly secured and while everyone expected the Brazilian to imminently tap out Chibana had other ideas.

The supple South American endured the pain for an agonising amount of time only to coolly work his way out to shock Burns and spectators in equal measure.

In the very next exchange Burns – still wondering how victory and Chibana’s arm had escaped his grasp – was thrown for ippon with 15 seconds left in the contest.    

In the -81kg category, Team Bath’s Tom Reed swept past Romania’s Marian Halas before coming undone against German Benjamin Muennich by a single yuko.

In the -100kg category, Enfield’s Philip Awiti-Alcaraz overcome Czech Republic national champion Michael Horak by a yuko.

Awiti-Alcaraz moved on to face Hungary’s three-time World Cup medallist Balin Farkas and scored a waza-ari but his more experienced foe battled back to win by ippon.