Sainsbury’s School Games is a huge success

Around 1,600 of the UK’s finest young athletes from 12 Olympic sports, converged on Manchester to compete at the Sainsbury’s School Games, between Friday 4 and 7 September 2014, writes Andrew Wheeler.

The three day festival of sport is supported by National Lottery funding from Sport England and delivered by the Youth Sport Trust, providing a great opportunity for young athletes and volunteers to gain first hand experience of a major sporting event. This year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow saw many School Games veterans in action, endorsing the Games as a precursor to future major championships.

With Wales absent this year, the judo event saw teams from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, fight for the medals in 14 weight categories. Friday and Saturday hosted the individual competition with Sunday culminating in a team event. Friday saw seven weight categories decided, three in the morning and four in the afternoon.

The morning sessions concluded the girls -48kg, -52kg and the boys +81kg categories.

In the girls -48kg category, Kiera Bateman representing England, continued the fine form that saw her win gold in this years Ippon Trophy in Antwerp. Here beating Scotland’s Kirtsy Marsh by ippon with a solid hold down from a great turn over for the top podium spot in the final.

Scotland's Gold 4 Del,Jack,Ronan,Eilish Silvers 4 Oscar,Kieran Bronzes 4 Emily,Jacob,Max,SebKiera looked untroubled all day, bringing to the mat her usual intensely focused aggression that the others found hard to deal with. Yasmin Gordon of Scotland and Yasmin Javadian of England both took bronze.

The girls -52kg event saw England’s Molly Storey come out on top in a group of six girls, beating Scotland’s Aimee Grant twice in one day, both in the pool stages and in the final. The final was a hard fought battle that could have gone either way at any minute, both girls giving their all in a great contest. Ebonnie Bridges of England and Scotland’s Abigail Mcbeath took the bronze medals.

The +81kg category saw the battle of the heavyweights and threw up no surprises with Britain’s top ranked junior heavyweight, Scotland’s Valentino Volante taking the top spot after a dominant performance against Rhys Thompson of England in the final.

The semi-finals saw countryman against countryman with England’s Rhys Thompson looking very impressive in his quick semi-final victory over his much larger though younger team mate Wesley Greenage, while Scotland’s Valentino took longer over his semi-final match with compatriot Cailin Calder, his yuko victory belying an otherwise comfortably dominant performance. Cailin Calder and Wesley Greenage took the bronze medals.

Friday afternoon was the turn of the girls -44kg and -70kg categories, along with the boys -50kg and -60kg brackets.

The boys -50kg final provided the talking point of the day. England’s Joshua Giles who had looked on top form all day was a waza-ari down and looked to be heading for the silver medal. With less than ten seconds left, his Scottish opponent Rob Hamilton had only two shidos and looked a certainty for gold. In those last ten seconds Rob stepped out of the area for his third shido, then with literally a couple of seconds left, he avoided contact, stepping away from his opponent and was given his fourth shido and hansoku-make. Bronze medals went to England’s George Gray and Scotland’s Connor Wilson.

Amy Platten (blue) in action against Olivia Reid, during the Sainsbury's 2014 School Games at the Amaechi Centre, Manchester. PA WirePress Association ImagesIn the girls -44kg event, Amy Platten of England looked good all day and won all of her matches to take the gold medal. She defeated Scotland’s Erin Peden into second place, with Scotland’s Olivia Reid and Northern Ireland’s Ashleigh Newton taking bronze.

The England duo of Megan Twigg and Shelley Ludford won gold and silver respectively in the girls -70kg category and England’s Imogen Morland and Scotland’s Shannon Reid taking the bronze medals.

In a very competitive boys -60kg category, England’s Adam Bolwell won his semi-final against compatriot Thomas Huckstep to meet Alexander Short of Scotland in the final and go on to win gold. Alexander had himself defeated fellow Scotsman Scott Thomson in their semi-final, with Scott fighting up a weight from his usual -55kg. Making short work of the final, Adam won the gold medal for England with a beautifully executed juji-gatame with two minutes and 44 seconds remaining on the clock. Thomas Huckstep and Scott Thomson both took home bronze medals.

Saturday morning opened with the girls -57kg contest.

England’s Lucy Day booked her place in the final with a beautiful uchi mata for ippon against Scotland’s Kirstie Mcbeath in their semi-final. There she met Northern Ireland’s Victoria Coulhoun who defeated England’s Morgan Cullum with a waza-ari and a yuko in the second semi final. Lucy saw off Victoria’s challenge just over two minutes into the final with a tight choke to secure the victory and the gold medal. Bronze medals went to Kirstie Mcbeath and Morgan Cullum.

In the girls +70kg event, England’s Charlotte Newbold reached the final with a strong hold down against her team mate Georgia Greenage in the semi finals. In the other semi-final Scotland’s Michelle Boyle beat her compatriot Rachel Tytler to secure her place in the final alongside Charlotte. In the final Michelle came out all guns blazing scoring first waza-ari then ippon with a beautiful osoto makikomi to secure victory and the gold medal in less than a minute. Georgia Greenage made it a family double, joining her brother Wesley in taking home a bronze medal. The other bronze went to Rachel Tytler.

The boys -73kg category had only four entrants, two from England and two from Scotland. Scotland’s Daniel Pacitti came out on top of the round robin to take the gold Medal with England’s James O’Shea winning silver and William Von Mallinkrodt of England and Scotland’s Adam Wilmot taking bronze.

The girls -63kg event also had only four entrants, again two from England and two from Scotland. Three of the girls ended up with two victories and one loss with Scotland’s Eilish Walker taking top spot and the gold medal. England’s Lucy King took silver with Chloe Nunn and Emily Rae taking home bronze for England and Scotland respectively.

In the mens -55kg event, Scotland’s Jack Murphy came out on top of a tough group. Jack looked in great form all day and beat England’s Ottavio Razzino into second place. Ottavio reached the final in literally the last second of his match with Leonardo Bertocchi of England. Leonardo was leading that match by a waza ari and two yukos right up until the very last second of the match, when he seemed to drop his guard just as Ottavio turned in beautifully for a stunning seoi-nage for ippon. Bertocchi along with Scotland’s Jacob Gehlan went home with a bronze medal for his efforts.

Scotland's Del Imrie (white) and England's Sebastian Potter at the Sainsbury's 2014 School Game. PA Photo SatSep 6, 2014. Photo credit Chris Radburn

The boys -66Kg category had some great matches and showed some great judo. Ronan Hoey of Scotland came out on top of a tough competitive group to take the gold medal defeating his compatriot Keiran Gehlan into second place. Ryan had beaten England’s Jack Curry in the semi final and Keiran won over his countryman, Max Flynn who took home a bronze medal.

The boys -81kg category had some of the toughest match ups of the day, Oscar Di Domenico beat team mate Sebastian Potter in the semi-final to face fellow Scot, Del Imrie in the final. Del defeated England’s Lewis Brooks in their semi-final.

These team mates obviously knew each others game very well and in a hard fought final, Di Domenico thought he had drawn first blood, scoring uko with an ura-nage after three minutes, only to have the score removed moments later. With thirty seconds of the contest remaining, Di Domenico went for another ura- nage only to have Imrie cleverly counter it to score ippon and take the gold medal. With Scotland scoring gold, silver and bronze in this bracket, they showed they have real strength in depth at -81kg.

Team event summary

Sunday’s team event rounded off a great three days of judo. The semi-final matches came down to England’s and Scotland’s A and B teams facing each other to determine who went forward to the final. England’s A team fought England’s B team and it was only Jack Curry’s victory for England B that prevented a total whitewash by the A team.

Jack had a great teams event winning all of his matches and avenging his semi-final defeat from the previous day. Likewise, in the other semi-final, it was an absolute rout for the Scottish A team, unfortunately for Scotland’s B team, there was nobody to take even a single match from the supremely dominant first team.

The scene was set for a great final, England’s A Team vs Scotland’s A team.

55kg boys:

In the first match Scotland’s Jack Murphy took on England’s Joshua Giles at 55kg. Joshua was fighting up a weight from 50 Kg and gave a great account of himself, putting up a great fight against a very strong and visibly larger opponent. Joshua held Jack off after concerted attacks.

With Jack looking to utilise the edge of the mat, he almost gave the match away with 25 seconds remaining by getting a shido for forcibly pushing Josh out of the area, much to the chagrin of the Scottish coach and supporters.

As the match resumed, Jack directed Josh towards the edge of the mat again and six seconds later, the penalty went in favour of the Scottish team putting them on level terms again with less that 20 seconds remaining. Jack threw the kitchen sink at him with 15 seconds remaining but Josh weathered the assault to take the match to golden score. After a great battle for almost a minute of Golden Score, Josh received a penalty and the match went to Jack. What a great fight to start proceedings and what a great performance by the much lighter player……..First blood to Scotland – 1-0

-52kg girls:

Match two saw Aimee Grant of Scotland face England’s Molly Storey for the third time in as many days. Once again it was not to be for Aimee as Molly came out like a pocket rocket and threw Aimee after just forty seconds with a beautiful Ippon Seoi Nage…….. One match each 1-1

-66kg boys:

In match three Ronan Hoey of Scotland faced England’s Joshua Awiti-Alcaraz both fought hard and fast and took the match to Golden Score. Twenty seconds into golden score, Joshua put England in the lead for the first time with a lovely Makikomi. Both sets of supporters were raising the roof and the atmosphere within the Ameachi Centre was electric. Both sets of coaches and both sets of fans shouting themselves hoarse…….. 1-2 to England.

-63kg Girls:

Match four saw Elish Walker of Scotland take on Englands Chloe Nunn. The match was backwards and forwards and just before the two minute mark Chloe was three shidos down. Just after two minutes the match went to the ground and Elish secured victory with a quick Juji Gatame…… Levelling the match 2-2.

81kg boys:

Match five saw a repeat of Saturday’s -81kg semi-final in which Del Imrie was victorious against Lewis Brooks. Many in the crowd thought Del and Ace in the Scottish pack and had this marked as a certainty for the Scottish team but Lewis had other ideas. Del came out confidently but in under a minute the fight went to the ground and Brooks showed some great ne-waza, adroitly turning Del over and holding him down for Ippon……England pull ahead once again 2-3.

+63kg girls:

Match six proved to be the pivotal match of the tournament, if England won, they had amassed an insurmountable lead, Scotland needed to win to stay in the game. England’s Charlotte Newbold, walked out to face Michelle Boyle of Scotland, The two faced each other the day before in the final and Michelle had quickly dominated that match scoring a waza ari and then Ippon in under a minute, once again the Scottish player was much fancied to win. Charlotte was looking to settle the score. In a repeat of the previous day’s contest, Michelle scored waza ari in under a minute. On the minute mark Michelle reached over and took Charlotte’s belt, turning in for a big o-goshi, Charlotte sensed the danger and pulled back with a stunning counter and took Michelle back to score ippon. The English coaches, supporters and players went beserk and the team title had gone to England A.

Heavyweight Boys:

There was still the small matter of the heavyweight contest to decide, with Scotland’s Valentino Volante facing England’s Rhys Thompson. Volante was another Ace in Scotland’s line up but whatever the outcome of this match, it would have no bearing on the overall result. It was all over bar the shouting. Rhys, no doubt buoyed up by his teams performance, came out strongly, Valentino went two yukos down before finally throwing Rhys for ippon with 19 seconds to spare.

The atmosphere generated by these team events really must be seen to be believed. A fitting end to an amazing three days of judo.

See you all next year.