GB Judo took home three medals on the second day of competition at the 2018 European Judo Championships in Tel Aviv on Friday 27 April.
It was a day of firsts with Sally Conway (silver), Gemma Howell (bronze) and Lucy Renshall (bronze) winning their first European medals.
Rio 2016 bronze medallist Sally Conway’s best finish at a European Judo Championship before today was a fifth in 2016.
Conway went in as sixth seed and backed that up from the start. After getting a bye into the second round the British judoka saw off Gabriella Willems (BEL) as she held her down before applying the arm lock to finish the contest.
She backed that up in the quarter-finals against Anka Pogacnik (SLO) as she rolled her opponent for waza-ari before applying juji-gatame (armlock) and forcing the Slovenian to tap out.
WRL 4 Barbara Matic (CRO) was next up in the semi-finals and the Croatian judoka made Conway work for the win.
Conway took the lead via osaekomi as she held Matic down for waza-ari before the Croatian got out of it.
Matic continued to press hard and with just a second left on the clock Conway rolled her opponent for a second waza-ari score to secure the win.
Three-time European champion Kim Polling faced Conway in the final and she made a fast start, throwing Conway for waza-ari in the opening seconds.
Conway responded well though and levelled things up as she caught Polling with a nice piece of ashi-waza.
The contest was a back and forth affair as both judoka came close to scoring again, both in tachiwaza and newaza.
The fight went into golden score and Polling was finally able to finish one of her throws as she got the vital second waza-ari score.
Conway was joined on the -70kg podium by Wolverhampton judoka Gemma Howell. She was fighting in her first European Judo Championships since moving up a weight and every opponent she fought was higher-ranked than her.
She took on eighth seed and WRL 15 Aleksandra Samardzic (BIH) in her first contest and she controlled proceedings before spotting an opportunity to roll her opponent into a strangle.
Samardzic tapped which secured Howell’s place in the quarter-finals. There she took on WRL 20 Michaela Polleres (AUT).
A very tactical contest went into golden score where it was Howell’s newaza that once again proved vital as she forced Polleres to tap through another strangle.
Polling was Howell’s opponent in the semi-final and Howell took a waza-ari lead against the Dutch judoka. However, Polling got a score in the very next exchange and got stronger as the fight went on.
Eventually the fight went into golden score where Howell picked up a third shido which meant she lost the contest and dropped into the bronze medal fight.
Spain’s two-time World medallist Maria Bernabeu stood in her way. The Spanish judoka had won their only contest to date at the Cancun Grand Prix last year.
Howell though weathered an early storm from Bernabeu and was able to take her chance in newaza. For a third time on the day she applied a strangle leading to a tap by the Spanish fighter.
St Helens judoka Lucy Renshall was making her Senior European Championship debut in Tel Aviv. The 22 year old had previously won gold at the Junior (U21) and U23 European Championships and silver at the Cadet (U18) European Championships.
Going in as eighth seed she had a bye into the second round where she took on Russia’s Daria Davydova.
In long and tactical contest that went to golden score it was Renshall who took the win as she threw Davydova for ippon.
This put Renshall into the quarter-finals where she took on current WRL 1 and World Champion Clarisse Agbegnenou (FRA).
The British fighter more than held her own against her illustrious opponent. Agbegnenou took a waza-ari lead with just over a minute to go but Renshall still had chances to win it late on.
Her best opportunity came when she appeared to have osaekomi (hold down) secured but the French judoka showed her strength to wrestle her way out of it.
In the end though that waza-ari proved to be the difference and Renshall dropped into the repechage final where she took on Tina Zeltner (AUT).
The Austrian judoka made things difficult early on but Renshall started to take control and she threw Zeltner for waza-ari with just over 90 seconds left.
The British fighter showed good contest management to hold off her opponent and secure a place in the bronze medal match.
However, Alice Schlesinger received hansoku-make for throwing with an armlock in her semi-final, which meant that Renshall finished the day with bronze.
2017 European bronze medallist Schlesinger was fighting in Israel for the first time since she switched to Great Britain.
However, the crowd was very much on her side from the start as she proved too strong for Stefania Adelina Dobre (ROU), throwing the Romanian for waza-ari and then ippon in quick succession.
In the second round she faced Juul Franssen (NED) and Schlesinger was on a four fight losing run against the Dutch judoka.
The British judoka made short work of her opponent though as she won inside the opening minute, throwing Franssen twice to win by waza-ari awasete ippon.
Schlesinger followed that up with another dominant win as she beat Israel’s Gili Sharir with two more waza-ari throws.
This setup a semi-final with Olympic champion Tina Trstenjak (SLO). Schlesinger came out the strong and took a waza-ari lead as she rolled the Slovenian.
However, Trstenjak levelled things up soon after with a waza-ari score of her own. The fight continued to ebb and flow but Schlesinger looked more likely to score.
Going into the final minute though Schlesinger was adjudged to have thrown with an arm-lock, which resulted in a straight hansoku-make for the British fighter.
Garioch judoka Stuart McWatt was making his senior European Judo Championships debut in Tel Aviv.
The -81kg fighter took on French judoka Alpha Oumar Djalo in the first round and made a good start as he threw his opponent for waza-ari in the opening minute.
The score was taken off but McWatt continued to control proceedings and was by far the more positive judoka throughout.
Neither judoka was able to score in regular time and the contest went into golden score. Both fighters had their chances in golden score but in the end it was Djalo who took the win as he caught McWatt with a lightning attack.
Saturday will be the third and final day of competition at the 2018 European Judo Championships. Natalie Powell (-78kg), Frazer Chamberlain (-90kg) and Jamal Petgrave (-90kg) will be looking to end the championships for GB Judo on a high.
Competition starts at 1000 UK time with the final block at 1500 UK time. Watch live via eju.net and you can follow @BritishJudo on Twitter for live updates throughout the day.