On day one of the British Open Championships, the EJU European Cup for seniors, held at K2 Leisure Centre, Crawley, Britain won a total of seven medals including three golds, one silver and two bronze.
Taking the first gold medal was Sarah Adlington in the +78kg weight category, who had a clean run in the preliminary rounds, with a bye in the first round and a win against Anastasia Gubadova of Spain in the second. The Brit progressed to the semi-final and won the fight against Gerdien Kupers of the Netherlands.
Adlington then faced Alicia Alonso of Spain in the gold medal fight. Both players picked up penalty points at the start of the fight, but Adlington dispatched of her opponent with and impressive ippon throw to take the gold.
Speaking after stepping off the rostrum, Adlington said, “The level of competition wasn’t as high as some tournaments, but this was still a good win for me, as I had to miss this event last year due to injury.
“The main thing today was competing and getting some fights in, the medal was a bonus,” she added.
Ashley McKenzie was on top form in the -60kg competition, winning his preliminary fights against Miguel Castro of Portugal, Marciano Lantinga of the Netherlands and Javier Selma of Spain, all by ippon score. As was his team mate Nathon Burns who charged through his preliminaries against Yakov Abetbool of Israel and Simon Yacoub of Germany after a bye in the first round.
Both Brits were then successful in their semi-final fights, placing them in an all-British final. The fighters were well matched, but it was McKenzie who won an early yuko point. After the clock ran down to the last minute, McKenzie drived for a second yuko point to finish the match with two seconds left on the clock. This was the third time on concession that McKenzie has took gold at this event.
After 10 months out by injury, the British Open played stage to Gemma Howell‘s return to competition. Howell, who has made her place previously in the -57kg weight category at the Championships, competed in the -63kg competition.
Howell started the day with a bye in the first round, and won her two preliminary fights against Anna Palmer of USA and Maier Uriarte of Spain, with a display of her renowned ground work. Progressing to the semi final, Howell faced fellow Brit Faith Pitman, an opponent well established in this weight category. It was a close fight, but Howell took the place in the final.
Progressing to the final against Jennifer Wichers of the Netherlands, Howell won the gold medal by a yuko point with a hold down.
Pitman lost her semi final fight against Heloise Lacouchie of France, and settled for fifth place.
Colin Oates took a bronze medal in the busy -66kg weight category, which saw 49 competitors take to the mat. The Brit lost his first fight against Javier Delgado of Spain in the first round, but the double repechage system bought him back into the competition after the Spanish fighter reached the semi-final.
Oates then won his four repechage fights, beating Killian Leblouch of France by a yuko and waza-ari after the full five minutes.
Also taking bronze was Sally Conway, who overcame fellow Brit Megan Fletcher in the -70kg bronze final. Like Oates, Conway was brought back into the competition after losing her first fight to Melanie Gerber of Germany and fought a total of five fights.
James Millar took the final bronze medal for Britain, winning with an ippon throw in the -60kg contest. Millar made a good start, winning his first fight against Mikos Salminen of the Netherlands. After losing his second fight, he won his next three fights to secure the bronze.
Ben Quilter, visually impaired World Champion, competed in the -60kg competition on the day and was also presented with his honorary life membership by British Judo Chairman, Densign White.
The Championships continue with the lightweight females and heavy weight males taking to the mat tomorrow.