Mittersill Camp opens up British Judo’s Commonwealth year

The new judo year in which the Commonwealth Games takes place and the Rio 2016 qualification period starts, begins today (Tuesday 7 January) as the 2014 European Judo Union’s Mittersill Olympic Training Camp in Austria gets underway.

Great Britain’s top judoka flew out to the Alps on 6 January to join the 500 players from 38 nations honing their techniques and training with competitors that they may well face in the future.

All the action takes place over the next seven days at the Sporthotel Kogler located in the Alpine city some 100 km from the historic town of Salzburg.

Lead women’s coach Kate Howey accompanies seven athletes at the camp; including Kim Renicks (-48kg), Nekoda Davis (-57kg), Gemma Howell (-63kg), Faith Pitman (-63kg), Sally Conway (-70kg), Natalie Powell (-78kg) and Sarah Adlington (+78kg). Meanwhile, men’s lead coach Chris Bowles is with his selected athletes: Ashley McKenzie (-60kg), Nathon Burns (-66kg). Colin Oates (-66kg), Tom Reed (-81kg), Max Stewart (-81kg), Philip Awiti-Alcaraz (-100kg) and Ben Fletcher (-100kg).

For those at the Olympic camp, it is a valuable opportunity ahead of the new competition calendar to train alongside Europe’s best judoka. After all, this is the year in which individual judoka from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be looking to score as many ranking points as possible ahead of May 1 to qualify for July’s Commonwealth Games.

Glasgow 2014 will be the first Games since Manchester 2002 that judo has been included as a sport. Athletes will be considered for selection on consideration of their portfolio of results from 1st May 2013 up to and including the Senior European Championships 2014. Points will be awarded for placing 1-7 at senior IJF ranking events, senior EJU ranking event and senior BJA ranking events. Athletes top three results will be used to rank each weight category and points are not transferable across weight categories.

With this in mind, judoka will be working hard to secure those precious ranking points before May, when the focus then shifts to gaining points for the Olympic qualification.

Gemma Gibbons in Dusseldorf last year

February marks the start of the GB senior competition calendar, starting with the Paris Grand Slam of 8-9 to open up the high-ranking competitions of 2014. Selected GB Judoka will return to the continent for the European Opens of Rome (for women) and Oberwart, Austria (for men) the following weekend of 15-16 February.

The month ends with the Dusseldorf Grand Prix between 21 and 23 February in Germany, a competition where Gemma Gibbons made her comeback to the international competition circuit last year to win gold.

Then the focus will shift to European Open competitions in Warsaw (for women) and Prague (for men) on 1 and 2 March respectively. An Americas tour for men and women begins with the Pan American Open of Montevideo (17-18 March), ending with the same level of competition in Buenos Aires, South America (22-23 March).

Meanwhile, the Grand Prix of Tbilisi takes place in Georgia between 21 and 23 March.

This arrives the week before the Samsun Grand Prix (29-30 March) – where Sally Conway took gold for Great Britain last year. Samsun is the penultimate major competition for seniors before the end of the Commonwealth qualification period. Of course the major highlight will be the European Championships in Montpellier, between 24 and 27 April, 2014.

Sally Conway winning her Samsun gold medal

The Grand Slam of Baku from 2-4 May and the European Cup for Seniors in London on 10-11 May, 2014 that closely follows will help judoka become fighting fit ready for 26 May when the Olympic qualification cycle begins. The month also sees the high-ranking IJF Masters event with the venue to be confirmed.

June is jam-packed with major competitions as the Havana Grand Prix takes place in Cuba between 6-8 June, closely followed by the Budapest Grand Prix in Hungary from 21-22 June. These are the first Grand Prix events of the new Olympic cycle. For those looking for further ranking points there will also be a chance to compete in the San Salvador Pan American Open and European Cup for Seniors in Celje Podcetrtek, Slovenia.

July sees both the Ulaanbaatar Grand Prix in Mongolia (4-6 July) and the Tyumen Grand Slam from 12-14 July.

Of course the big event of the month is the Commonwealth Games 2014. Judo competitions will take place between 24-26 July.

Meanwhile, August opens with the Pan American Open of Miami on 2-3 August. However, the showcase of the month and year is Judo’s Senior World Championships, set to take place in Chelyabinsk, Russia between 25 and 31 August.

The Rijeka Grand Prix is set to take place in Croatia between 12-14 September and then there are a few European Cups to warm up for the next batch of events.

Emirates Arena where the nation's best women will do battleOctober opens with British Judo’s flagship event the European Open for women at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow between 4-5 at a venue already tried-and-tested with the men’s competition last year.

The same month will also play host to no less than three Grand Prix events in Asia.

These include the Astana Grand Prix in Kazakhstan (10-12 October), the Tashkent Grand Prix in Uzbekistan (16-18 October) and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in United Arab Emirates between 31 October and 2 November.

These events will be followed by the Oceanic Open, Port Louis, Mauritius (8 November) and yet another Grand Prix in Qingdao, China (21-23 November).

The final days of this extremely busy month will be filled with the Asian tour, that begins the Jeju Grand Prix in Korea on 28-30 November.

Then the second leg of the tour takes place between December 5-7 where Britain’s best judoka will have the chance to compete at the Tokyo Grand Slam in Japan – the home of judo.

And the year ends with the Junior and Senior British Championships on 13 and 14 December (Pre-cadets and Cadets competitions take place the weekend before (6-7 December).

Words by Donna Richardson. Images EJU,IJF and Emirates Arena.