With just a few months to go until London 2012, judokas from around the world have been getting a taste of what to expect while competing at this month’s London British Open judo competition. Sophie Cox, who fights in the -52kg category, describes what it was like to be part of a GB team that topped the medal table.
At the British Open last year, Britain finished up fourth in the medal table with six medals. This year, however, we were first by a long way with eight gold, three silver and five bronze medals. It was an intense weekend for many of the GB players, as some were competing for their Olympic selections and others really wanted to perform well in front of the home crowd.
On the morning of my fights, I headed out nice and early to the weigh-in. I knew we’d had a good day the previous day so expectations would remain high and I was feeling a little nervous.
Relaxed and focused
But I also knew I wouldn’t be on right at the start of the competition so it was important that I stay relaxed and focused while the other fights were on. The competition is done round by round and if you win, you progress. I would have to win three fights to get in the final, so every fight was important. In judo, the draw is random although the top eight in the rankings are seeded so won’t meet in the first round.
I’d been drawn against one of the best players in my first fight so it was crucial to warm-up properly and concentrate on just that. I knew a lot of the other players fighting that day and many people in the crowd as well, so it would’ve been easy to get distracted. It was good that my training partner was there in the warm up room and I could stay there until it was time.
Going out to fight, I could hear people in the crowd cheering me on, which was great and the support for the GB players really seemed to spur them on. I won my first contest by two penalties, although it went to golden score (extra time). I wasn’t able to throw, hold, arm lock or choke the other player – which are the ways to win a contest outright – but I was trying to attack more and my opponent was penalised for not attacking enough and for doing too many non-effective attacks.
My day got even better after that and I won the semi-final and the final by throwing for ippon – a maximum point score where the other fighter lands on their back with force. This is the equivalent of a knockout in boxing as it immediately ends the contest. (Previously I had won another contest by a yuko, which is a smaller score given for a throw that puts your opponent on their side, but the contest still continues after that for up to five minutes.)
It was a real feeling of satisfaction to watch the GB flag go up when I was on the podium receiving a gold medal, and great for the other GB players and the crowd. Hopefully there’ll be more of that to come in a few weeks’ time!
You can try the Olympic and Paralympic sport of judo with a free first lesson at your local club. Visit the British Judo Association website to find your nearest club.
Picture courtesy British Judo Association