With coveted British titles at stake, tensions will be high as Olympians and European medallists fight among newcomers and Britain’s best rising judo stars at the 2013 Junior and Senior British Championships this coming weekend.
More than 360 contestants have signed up to the Championships taking place on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 December at the English Institute of Sport (EIS) in Sheffield.
Saturday sees the Juniors in competition, each one hoping to progress through their pools for the chance to fight for a place on the medal rostrum.
Some junior names in action include Glossop’s Eric Ham (-66kg), who at last week’s British Cadet Championships secured a bronze medal to add to his two gold medals from previous years.
After earning a place on the 2013 squad last year, Ham was the youngest in his group to seize a silver medal at the previous Junior British Championships.
Following an incredible 12 months, he looks set for a repeat performance, or even better this year at junior level.
Meanwhile, Lubjana Piovesana, of Bishop Challoner, will be fighting for the junior -63kg title and the senior title too. A decent result here will cap off an incredible 12 months for the 16-year-old, whose highlight of the year came at the World Cadet Championships where she claimed a quickfire ippon inside a minute to win bronze.
The young starlet, who was crowned Cadet of the Year at the recent British Judo Awards and also won the gold at last weekend’s Cadet Championships.
And not content with that, she will be looking for a second chance of a medal at the Senior Championships the following day, as will the S.K.K pair of Bekky Livesey (-57kg) and Jodie Myers (+78kg).
Other juniors in action include: Reece Peacock (-66kg) of Patchway, who was recently crowned Young Volunteer of the Year, Hayley Willis (-48kg) of Stratford Judokwai, Jodie Caller (-57kg) of Renzoku and Katie-Jemima Yeats-Brown of Tonbridge (-63kg).
Sunday sees the seniors take centre stage where the onus is on winning medals or placings along with a place on the senior squad for 2014.
Olympian and 2013 European Championships bronze Ashley McKenzie of Camberley is the reigning -60kg British Champion and will be looking to retain this title.
Meanwhile, fresh from her bronze victory at the Jeju Grand Slam, Sally Conway of Edinburgh will defend her -70kg British title. She has had several previous triumphs at the British Championships.
Among those up against her will be Pinewood’s Megan Fletcher and Natasha Maslen of Tora Judo Kai and Team Bath. Meanwhile, Renrukan’s Caroline Kinnane will fight at -78kg.
A batch of IJF World Tour and Glasgow European Open medallists will also be in action, including Kumo’s Colin Oates. Oates took -66kg gold in Glasgow, while Ben Fletcher of Team Bath/Pinewood seized silver at -100kg and Theodore Spalding-McIntosh gained bronze at -90kg.
Ealing’s Nekoda Davis, who finished her junior career this year at the top of her game, will be looking to step up the pace on her journey to the Rio 2016 Olympics. Last year’s bronze medallist Davis will represent the women at -57kg along with Bekky Livesey of S.K.K and Connie Ramsay of the Edinburgh club.
Ramsay’s club-mate Sarah Clark will fight at -63kg, which should prove to be an interesting category with top judoka entered.
Her rivals will include Olympian Gemma Howell of Wolverhampton, Rijeka Grand Prix Gold medallist Faith Pitman of West Essex, Lulu Piovesana of Bishop Challoner, Jodie Mullen of Judo Scotland and former European Cadet Champion Katie-Jemima Yeats-Brown of Tonbridge.
Dave Sanders Performance Performance Programme Manager said:
“The British Championships are an important competition – certainly one of the most prestigious in the British Judo domestic calendar.
“Not only will they determine who is British Champion, but we also use these events to identify our 2014 squads as well as for selection of the Open National Squad Training at Walsall.
“Of course any squad selections are crucial for the 2016 strategy in this Olympic qualification period.”
Full entry lists for both days can be found here: Tickets are available on the door. They cost £10 for an adult day ticket or £15 for the weekend. Meanwhile, it is £5 for a child’s day ticket or £7.50 for the weekend.
Words by Donna Richardson.