Paralympic coach JP Bell and Olympian Dennis Stewart to lead coaching team at British Judo Centre of Excellence

British Judo’s coaching team has been further bolstered with the appointment of Jean-Paul Bell and Dennis Stewart to its Elite Coaching Programme.

Bell, who led British Judo’s Paralympic athletes to a silver and bronze medal at London 2012 will assume a joint position of Lead Coach for the Centre of Excellence in England and Visually Impaired (VI) following his experience of creating a centralised VI programme at the British Judo Performance Institute in Dartford.

Meanwhile, Seoul Olympic bronze medallist Stewart will also be based at the new Centre of Excellence at the University of Wolverhampton, taking on the role of Centre of Excellence Coach.

Established to deliver a centralised training programme for the association’s junior and transition athletes, this centre will combine a state-of-the-art dojo along with educational and vocational development facilities.

Works will be complete at the end of October and it will officially open in Mid-November, ready to embrace the first athletes. Bell led VI athletes Ben Quilter and Sam Ingram to Paralympic glory last summer.

Ingram took silver in the London 2012 Games while Quilter took bronze. Quilter also became Britain’s first visually impaired judo world champion in 12 years when he won gold at the 2010 World Championships.

As the lead Paralympic Performance Coach for the Games Bell played an instrumental part in their success. When competing the 42-year old won gold at the 1992 Commonwealth Championships in Cardiff and has a string of medals at national and international level.

Dennis Stewart competed for GB at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea where he won the bronze medal in the then men’s Half-Heavyweight (– 95 kg) division.

The 53-year old also won gold in the 1986 London British Open and silver in Paris tournament. He went on to work as a team manager and then as head coach for the Commonwealth Games between 1993 and 2002, where he helped nurture talent such as Craig Fallon, who won his first major medal at that event. He also worked with Winston Gordon. After the Commonwealth’s he went back to the clubs for a while running the Halesowen Judo Club and up until his appointment the Lordswood Budokan.

Commenting on the appointments, Performance Director, Nigel Donohue, said: “The GB Centre of Excellence is going to be the focal point of our performance programme in particular in preparing our Rio Paralympic Team and developing the next generation of players for 2020. “In Jean-Paul Bell we have a very experienced and knowledgeable performance coach who will lead the GB Centre of Excellence and Paralympic programmes and will be instrumental in creating a world class performance environment for our elite players to survive, strive and thrive in. “Jean-Paul will also link directly with the GB Lead Coaches – Chris Bowles and Kate Howey to facilitate the transfer of players into the GB Senior Performance programme.

“Dennis Stewart, a Seoul Olympic Bronze medallist, has considerable experience with working with younger players and fully understands the importance of the quality of development required at this young age in order to produce world class players. Dennis will work on a daily basis with the players in the GB Centre of Excellence and also in collaboration with the Home Country Coaches in order to produce a performance programme that can deliver success at Junior European and Junior World Championships.

“With these two appointments, plus having Kate and Chris already in place, the GB performance programme is starting to take shape with continued communication with the Home Country programmes to create a unified GB led performance programme.”

British Judo Chief Executive Andrew Scoular added: “I’m extremely pleased to secure the services of both Jean-Paul Bell and Dennis Stewart. “The Centre of Excellence is a key addition to the British Judo Performance Pathway and having the right people in place at the centre is critical for our gold medal hopes moving forward.

“Jean-Paul has a proven track record having created a successful centralised Visually Impaired programme at Dartford and his expertise in implementing this knowledge whilst continuing the success of the VI programme will be invaluable to the association. “Working at the centre on a daily basis, Dennis Stewart will play a key role in the development of our junior athletes and delivering British Judo’s first Olympic gold medal.”

Bell said: “I am really excited and I am looking forward to getting stuck in. I am really pleased to be appointed at a pivotal point in the Olympic Cycle and I feel proud to have been selected for such a great honour. I am already the Head Paralympic Coach, so to be selected as the Head of the Centre of Excellence too is the pinnacle of my career, aside from the Olympics.” Dennis Stewart said: “It is a great opportunity and I feel honoured to be selected as Great Britain Coach along with Bell.

“While he will be looking after the senior and transitional players, I will be training the next generation of athletes for the next level.

“The last Olympic Games in London was a great inspiration for everyone and British Judo exceeded our targets. Using my own Olympic experience I hope I can inspire youngsters to go for their own Olympic dreams. If I can do it they can too.”

“The Centre of Excellence is something that people have been talking about for some time. Now we have the right site and right lead in Nigel Donohue. The site being in Walsall and central geographically, means it is accessible to most players.”

Words by Donna Richardson.