Ashley McKenzie took fifth place in the -60kg category as the 2014 European Judo Championships got underway in Montpellier, France.
Londoner McKenzie, who claimed a bronze medal at last year’s European Championships in Budapest started well, holding down Ionis Papachristidis of Greece for ippon after some great work on the ground.
This set up a meeting with Switzerland’s Ludovic Chammartin, silver medallist in 2013. McKenzie dispatched him in style with a great throw for ippon and secured a place in the quarter final.
The quarter-final contest was a tight affair with McKenzie taking the lead with a yuko, however he picked up shidos through the contest and received hansoku make in the last minute meaning he would drop into the repechage.
There he faced Austrian Ludwig Paischer. McKenzie started the contest strongly and threw the former Olympic and World silver medallist for ippon in 23 seconds.
The bronze medal contest put him up against 2011 World bronze medallist Ilgar Mushkiyev. The tightly fought contest saw the duo separated only by shidos with McKenzie picking up a fourth shido in the final seconds, handing the bronze medal to the Azerbaijani.
In the -66kg category, Colin Oates came from behind in his opener to progress against Bence Zambori of Hungary. The Norfolk athlete who trains in Edinburgh was thrown for waza-ari early on but levelled the score with a minute to go and followed it up with a hold down to take the win.
He went on to face eventual gold medallist Loic Korval. Oates went a waza-ari up after holding down the Frenchman who escaped the hold, preventing ippon. However, with the home crowd behind him and two yukos on the board, Korval threw Oates for waza-ari with around 30 seconds to go and registered another yuko score, eliminating Oates from the competition.
Camberley’s Nathon Burns narrowly lost out to Portugal’s Sergiu Oleinic in the same category. Burns picked up three shidos and with no other scores registered failed to progress to the next round.
Commenting on the action, British Judo Performance Director Nigel Donohue said: “Overall, I’m pleased with the performances the team put in today.
“The current standard of judo is so competitive and all of our athletes came well prepared and competed at a very high level. In particular Ashley fought well against a number of top class opponents to take fifth.
“I’m disappointed to come away empty handed but It was a day of fine margins and on another day a number of decisions may not have gone against us and we’d come away with a couple of medals.
“Now I’m looking forward to more strong performances over the next two days.”
Tomorrow (Friday) sees the middleweights in action with Sally Conway and Megan Fletcher both competing in the -70kg category. Action gets underway at 11:00 CET (10:00 BST) with updates available through Twitter @BritishJudo and live streaming at www.ippon.tv.