Stateside medal haul for GB in Visually Impaired US Open

Great Britain’s Visually Impaired men’s judo team performed well in a strong field of Paralympic Medalists from around the world at the VI US Open in Colorado yesterday (Sunday).

That is the view of Paralympic head coach Jean-Paul Bell.

In his first ever VI competition, Jonathan Drane (-73kg) clinched an epic victory, seizing gold after winning every fight by ippon in an excellent display of fighting.

But the plumber from Norwich has not let his performance go to his head. In fact, he could not believe his result. “Prior to the competition, I had no expectations as it is my first VI competition,” he said. “After all I still consider myself to be just a plumber from Norwich. This is why I truly appreciate and understand the magnitude of my opportunity and am pleased that I won a gold medal.”

Paralympians Sam Ingram (-90kg) and Dan Powell (-81kg) both won silver.

It was unfinished business for GB Paralympic silver medallist Sam who faced Cuban Jorge Hierrezuelo Marcillis in a repeat of the London 2012 Paralympic final, which he lost by a yuko emulating the same end result.

This time around he was dominating the bout and was up by waza-ari until a contentious decision saw him disqualified 40 seconds from the end of the contest.

Meanwhile Dan, who placed seventh in the Paralympics, showed composure and scored some well executed ippons to gain silver.

His brother Marc Powell (-73kg), who also participated in last year’s London Paralympics produced some big ippons to clinch bronze, while Gavin Towers (-81kg), who only recently made the transition to VI Judo after being diagnosed last year with a degenerative eye condition, also took bronze – his first at this level of competition.

Fighting in the -100kg category Chris Skelley faced tough competition. He fought an epic 22 minute golden score contest against the 5th place German from London 2012 Oliver Upmann and was unlucky to concede having dominated the whole match. Overall it was a good performance from the young player.

J P Bell, said: “Overall it was a very pleasing team performance. It was a strong competition and its good to see our athletes in the medals and dominating the final block.

“I think they have all made great progress this year and are all becoming stronger judoka.”

Words by Donna Richardson.