Medal glory for Warwick Judo at BUCS National Tournament

Warwick Judo club has achieved its best result in its history in the last two competitions it has entered. Both Judo’s teams claimed Bronze at both USIST XII (the 12th University of Sheffield International Student Teams) and BUCS national tournament (British University and College Sport – formally BUSA). The Warwick squad also returned with a Gold, Silver and Bronze from the BUCS individual competition.

On Saturday 21st February, a twelve strong Warwick squad travelled to Sheffield University’s Goodwin Sports Centre, to enter two teams (two women, four men per team) into the biggest international student team tournament of the year.

The Warwick A-team, made up of a 2nd Dan (2nd degree black belt), three 1st Dans and two brown belts, romped through the pool stages, dispatching both Leeds and Aberystwyth convincingly. The team went through to the knock-outs and met York University in the quarter finals. In an impressive display, Warwick A won all their fights by Ippon (maximum score-equivalent to a knock out in boxing) and faced Munster University in the semi-finals. This German sports University, which has won the tournament seven out of nine times and which knocked out Warwick last year, had a very imposing team yet again.

After two fights the scores were level thanks to two inspiring Ippons from Guersandre Binoi and Pierre Grandjean, but in a controversial referee’s decision, Thomas Grandjean’s Ippon was awarded to the Munster fighter and the team was left to fight for Bronze. The repechage final was against Manchester and Warwick trounced them in fantastic style with a clean sweep of five Ippons, to collect their first and thoroughly well earned medal at this international tournament.

Warwick B team, which historically does better than the A team due to the draw, won their pool, eliminating Manchester B and Newcastle. Askar Aituov, who was fighting in his first competition and in two weight categories above, scored a notable Ippon within seconds of the start of his first fight, instantly becoming an inspiration to the beginners who take up Judo as a new sport at Warwick. The B team surged through to reach the quarter finals but faced a strong London team, which combines all the best fighters from all the London Universities. Warwick B fought extremely hard, but were unable to overcome last year’s runners up and were knocked out of the tournament.

However, the biggest competition in the yearly Judo calendar are the BUCS national championships held at ICE, Sheffield, which took place on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th March 2009. Historically the winners of this tournament were granted a place on the British national squad that represents Britain in international competitions abroad.

The individuals were fought on Saturday and the day started well with Fresher Sam Harris completely dominating the under 66 kilos Kyu (non- black belt) grade category, winning all five of his bouts, including the final by Ippon. Sam’s wins included an 18 second win, and won the semi-final with similar panache as well as the final by another Ippon in only 20 seconds! An exemplary achievement, which lead our coach and former British Olympic Squad member, Dave Nicholls 4th Dan, to decree that the whole team should refer to Sam as “The Champ” for the rest of the week-end. Infractions were instantaneously punishable by 20 press-ups on the spot.

Sophie Constance Cox followed in the same vein, winning 10 points for her black belt with a huge Ippon throw to reach the final of the under 52 kilos Dan grade category. A long hard battle for Gold ensued and women’s team captain, Sophie, clinched Silver.

Pierre Grandjean, 1st Dan, fought in the second most entered weight…

All remaining eight Warwick Judokas fought valiantly but failed to go through the pool stages, apart from Thomas Grandjean 2nd Dan, who competed in the most popular weight category (41 entries), the under 73 kilo Dan grade section. Against all the odds, Thomas made it into the last 16 and faced British squad member Daniel Harper, who placed 5th at British Open Competition in 2008. Thomas started strong, dominating the initial exchanges with his adversary and was leading on minor scores. The tables turned, however, when the well-drilled fighter, who went on to win silver, exploited an opening on the ground and pinned Thomas to win the fight. The final now out of reach, Thomas tried to battle through the difficult repechage to win Bronze.

Unfortunately, he soon met his match in British squad member, David Lamb, who won Bronze at the British Closed Competition.

In a one sided fight, David dumped Thomas, his medals hopes ended Thomas placed 9th overall.

Ben Dowling fought well to get to through to the knock-out stages of the under 81 kilo Dan grade category, but faced Ed Leonardo of Bath University in the last 16. Ben couldn’t manage to get the better of the Portuguese Open Champion and was knocked out. Adam Jones, Joel Hallam and Joe Rattenbury represented Warwick in the under 90 kilo Dan grade category, where 15 competitors battled to bring back medals for their respective Universities.

Although pooled with a 1st Dan and a 3rd Dan, Joel made it through to the knock-outs to the quarter finals where faced Emil Edmar. Edmar, who won the Swedish Open, arm-locked Joel and ended his medal hopes, this tough loss to the international competitor left him in 7th place, no mean feat in such a tough category.

On Sunday, Joe Rattenbury, Adam Jones, Team Captain Joel Hallam, Thomas Grandjean and Pierre Grandjean lined up for the team event, where Warwick narrowly missed out on medals placing 5th out of the 15th Teams last year. This year’s draw was good, with Warwick put in the only pool without seeded players.

The team dispatched Manchester University’s team with five consecutive Ippons, winning 50-0 and beat Southampton University’s team in similar style, with four Ippons (40-10) to win the pool and went through to the quarter-finals. Unfortunately Adam Jones tore his shoulder in his fight and had to be replaced with Ben Dowling 1st Dan. Despite this loss Warwick demonstrated the depth of their squad and went on to demolish Durham University.

A clean sweep of 50-0 saw them into the semi-finals in style. The team now faced Edinburgh University, which always does well and had a very strong team again this year. The Scottish team convincingly beat Warwick 35-10. The five Warwick Judokas were then left to battle Anglia Ruskin University in the repechage final. The Cambridge based University team boasted two ex-French national squad players, but Warwick, nevertheless, secured a win by 30-20 and won the Bronze medal.

An impressive medal tally for The University of Warwick Judo Club, which has been growing from strength to strength in the last few years. A remarkable accolade to the dedication and enthusiasm of the new coaching team and the exec, who have put in so much effort into making the club so successful.

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