Medal success for Gemma Howell and British juniors

Gemma Howell marked her return from a nine month injury lay-off by taking a bronze medal at the IJF Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku on Sunday.

The 21-year-old, who has also moved up to the -63kg category, stepped onto the mat against hometown judoka Khanim Huseynova in her first contest back since her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction.

Despite the new weight and lengthy absence the two-time European u23 bronze medallist showed her reaction times were as quick and clinical as ever as she registered a yuko and waza-ari to defeat Huseynova.

Japanese youngster Haruka Yasumatsu, 20, the 2011 Bulgaria World Cup silver medallist, inched past the Briton by a waza-ari in a well-matched contest.

In the bronze medal contest Gemma Howell defeated Croatian Andreja Dakovicw with a yoko proving decisive against the former Junior European silver medallist.

Gemma Howell said: “I claimed the bronze medal, I’ve definitely fought better before but was happy to have completed my first competition back.”

Kate Howey, British Judo’s lead Olympic women’s coach, said: “Well done to Gemma for her bronze in Baku, it was her first one back for nine months and she came through unscathed.”

Elsewhere, the all-conquering British juniors produced a five-medal haul in Lithuania at the latest Junior European Cup.

Lucas Rowe took -60kg bronze while Joshua Hill took fifth-place in the same category.

Liam Ashton-Farr took seventh-place at -73kg while Max Stewart stepped up a weight category to clinch -81kg silver.

Nekoda Davis clinched -57kg gold while Jemima Duxberry achieved the same success in the -63kg field with Bekky Livesey finishing in seventh-place in the same category. 

Natasha Mason finished in seventh-place at -70kg while Rachel Moon claimed -78kg bronze.