As we come to the end of the year for the Junior programme, we can look back on these Junior World Championships in Zagreb very positively. The stats will show that we had three medal fights and finished with one Bronze medal and two fifth places, but the level of the performances and the consistency of performing at this level should be celebrated. It is the third consecutive Junior World Championships that we have medalled at and incredibly, Lulu is the third consecutive -63kg bronze medallist. We are now starting to develop a real strength in depth across a number of weight categories.
A special mention has to go to Stuart McWatt who just missed out on a medal. He has come back stronger than ever after two ACL operations in the last two years and performed exceptionally well in just his third international competition back. I was very pleased with his overall performance and he will go from strength to strength as he competes more in the coming months. Stuart has a fantastic attitude and is a role model for aspiring young athletes or anyone who has suffered serious injury. You can always get back stronger and better if you are prepared to put the work in.
The Junior programme is consistently developing athletes for the Senior programme with the Technical and Performance profile that gives our athletes the chance to transition into that programme to potentially go on and compete at the highest level. It’s the fifth consecutive year that we have produced medallists at the Junior European Championships and two Junior athletes in Lulu and Acelya Toprak have medalled at Senior level this year winning Grand Prix and Continental Open medals. Jamal Petgrave won gold in Bremen, our first U21 gold medal since Craig Fallon in 2001.
Remember the name, "Jamal Petgrave"……….#OneToWatch
Additionally this group have had exposure at some of the strongest Senior and Junior training camps in Europe, Japan, Brazil and Mongolia as part of their long term development from both a Technical perspective and exposure to the important experiences they need to climb the rocky road to achieve their full potential.
Finally, the athletes cannot achieve these level of performances without the quality of coaching they receive, the support of the sports science and medicine team, their Club coach and parents. Overall, it has been another successful Junior year and we look forward to seeing a number of them transition into the Senior programme and the next batch of young athletes come through the system.