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London 2012 Olympics: Despite 7.5m funding only one of our eight Judo Brits has any success

Judoh! Despite 7.5m funding only one of our eight Brits has any success

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UPDATED:

22:34 GMT, 31 July 2012

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British Judo Association chairman Densign White has blasted the country’s flops for failing to make the sacrifices needed to achieve Olympic success in the sport.

Only one of the eight British judokas who have competed in London so far has managed to register a win, despite the 7.5million of funding judo has received over a four-year period and its 5m training centre in Dartford.

White, who competed at three Olympics between 1984 and 1992, said the entire British judo squad only had 28,000 to prepare for the 1988 Games in Seoul and criticised the current team for not maximising their ‘four-year window’ of opportunity.

All over: Gemma Howell is disqualified

All over: Gemma Howell is disqualified

How British interest hit the mat

Our only success was Colin Oates, who finished equal seventh with three wins. The rest of the team didn’t compete for very long…

Ashley McKenzie (Men’s under 60kg) — 4min 10sec.

Kelly Edwards (Women’s under 48) — 3min 2sec.

Sophie Cox (Women’s under 52kg) — 5min 0sec.

Colin Oates (Men’s under 66kg, right) — 21min 36sec.

Sarah Clark (Women’s under 57kg) — 5min 23sec.

Daniel Williams (Men’s under 73kg) — 4min 9sec.

Gemma Howell (Women’s under 63kg) — 4min 31sec.

Euan Burton (Men’s under 81kg) — 1min 45sec.

TOTAL = 49 minutes and 40 seconds

Gemma Howell and Euan Burton both lost on Tuesday, with 33-year-old Burton dissolving into tears during a television interview and admitting he had ‘let everyone down’.

Colin Oates, 29, finished equal seventh in the men’s -66kg category but is currently the only fighter to have met UK Sport’s target of 13 quarter-final places.

Great Britain have not achieved an Olympic judo medal since Kate Howey, Howell’s coach, won silver in the -70kg category in Sydney in 2000.

They also failed to get on the podium at last year’s World Championships, prompting the sacking of three members of the sport’s elite coaching staff.

White, who is married to Olympic javelin gold medallist Tessa Sanderson, believes British judokas must relocate to Dartford and ridiculed athletes who put university courses before training.

He said: ‘I understand if an athlete is
33 or 34 it is difficult for them to relocate and disrupt their whole
life — but if you want to be an Olympic champion, then I am sorry, that
is what you have to do. You have to make sacrifices.

Down and out: Euan Banks reacts after losing to Canada's Antonie Valois-Fortier

Down and out: Euan Banks reacts after losing to Canada's Antonie Valois-Fortier

‘I made sacrifices when I was an athlete, and there was not half the money we had now. We had nothing, we were on the dole and were training full time. You hear all these excuses — this one has a university course to finish, this one has that problem. It is just excuses. You have one chance in life to be at this level, you only have a four-year window to be the most successful you can be.’

Burton, who came seventh in Beijing four years ago, earned a bye to the second round but was beaten by ippon by Canadian Antoine Valois-Fortier in the men’s -81kg.

His Olympic challenge lasted just one minute and 45 seconds — a desperately disappointing display for the Scot, whose family had paid 300 each for tickets to come and support him.

Done and dusted: Antoine Valois-Fortier of Canada celebrates defeating Burton

Done and dusted: Antoine Valois-Fortier of Canada celebrates defeating Burton

Burton said: ‘I feel like I’ve let my family down, my coaches, everybody I’ve ever trained with and my mum, dad and brother. I came in feeling I could win the tournament and that I was in the best shape of my life. It’s probably the end of my Olympic career.’

Howell, 22, faced world and European champion Gevrise Emane of France in her -63kg fight and was disqualified on her Olympic debut.

Howell said: ‘I am completely gutted. I did not come here to fight hard, I came here to win it, so I did not do what I wanted to.

‘What makes being an Olympic champion in judo so special is that you do only get one chance every four years. Rio (which will host the 2016 Games) will be the next big thing for me now.’

London 2012 Olympics: Ashley McKenzie out of judo

'Bad boy' McKenzie crashes out of judo competition at first hurdle to No 2 seed

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UPDATED:

09:40 GMT, 28 July 2012

Britain's Ashley McKenzie suffered an early exit from the men's under-60kg extra-lightweight competition when he was beaten by Japan's Hiroaki Hiraoka, the No 2 seed, at ExCeL.

The 23-year-old – who was the subject of a no-holds-barred TV documentary, 'The Bad Boy Olympian', which charted his battle to win selection for Team GB – started brightly, but the experience of the world silver medallist soon told.

McKenzie fell further behind with passivity penalties mid-way through the five-minute contest, which left an uphill battle to continue his Olympic dream, which was ended with 50 seconds left by an ippon score.

Crash: Great Britain's Ashley McKenzie (right) is thrown by Japan's Hiroaki Hiraoka

Crash: Great Britain's Ashley McKenzie (right) is thrown by Japan's Hiroaki Hiraoka

Japan's Hiroaki Hiraoka fights with Britain's Ashley Mckenzie (blue)

Dartford's Kelly Edwards will also face a tough challenge, having been given a bye into the second round against Japan's top seed Tomoko Fukumi in the women's under-48kg.

London 2012 Olympics: Ashley McKenzie got into judo after fight over Pokemon

Team GB star McKenzie took up judo after fight over Pokemon card

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UPDATED:

17:26 GMT, 23 July 2012

Olympics 2012

Ashley McKenzie grins broadly as he tells how a fight over a Pokemon card turned him from a problematic youngster in trouble with the law to one of Britain's best hopes for a judo medal at the London Olympics.

Thrown out of school, his life was changed when he was 11 by a tussle on a street near his home in west London which broke out when another boy tried to make off with his prized Pokemon Charizard card.

'This Charizard was the best card. It was my life back then,' he recalled at the British judo team's training base in Dartford to the east of London.

Pokemon warrior: Ashley McKenzie (front row, second right) with the rest of Team GB's Olympic squad

Pokemon warrior: Ashley McKenzie (front row, second right) with the rest of Team GB's Olympic squad

'I've gone to grab his shirt and next thing I knew I was over his shoulder. I was a scrapper back in the day so I knew this wasn't right.

'I went for him again and as I've gone for him he's thrown me again. I was thinking “No way, what's going on How's he throwing me He's hurting me”.'

Baffled, he went home and looked on the internet where he discovered he had been overcome by a judo move. Keen to learn more, he went along to a local club and found his erstwhile attacker there, along with his Pokemon card.

'We spoke, we're friends, I started judo. Obviously I got my Pokemon card back,' he added with a laugh.

McKenzie, now a charming 23-year-old, is very open about his past troubles, and proud of how he turned his life around.

Hope: McKenzie is one of Britain's best gold prospects

Hope: McKenzie is one of Britain's best gold prospects

He was regularly excluded from school and spent time in a young offenders institution.

But, having got into judo, his talent was spotted and success in junior competitions followed.

'I started winning more and more, and I thought my mum's happy and my brother and my dad's happy for me winning these and when I'm in school I'm always in trouble,' he said.

'It was like a balance where I was doing something positive. So I kind of focused all my energy on judo. From there my life kind of shot up.'

It was not all plain sailing as his penchant for trouble has seen him earn a number of bans from the sport. But the medals kept coming and he knuckled down when he realised he could get to the Olympics.

'It sunk in my head, I could actually do this. This actually could be my dream, my dream could come true to be someone in the world,' he said.

He is desperate to win a medal in London in front of his friends and family but knows it will not be easy, especially with Uzbekistan's Rishod Sobirov a huge favourite in his under-60kg category.

'I've come from so low to so high in my life. I've done what I had to do and this is the end spot,' he said.

'I've completed the one big barrier that's getting out of all the trouble, trying to go to the Games. Now the next step is let's try and get a medal.'

If he doesn't succeed this time, then he's even more determined to prove himself at the Olympics in Brazil in 2016.

'At Rio I'll be looking for gold, and that is it. I want a medal, I want to get a gold so bad it's unbelievable.'

London 2012 Olympics: Adam Gemili vows to beat 10sec barrier

Gemili ready to take on Bolt and Co as world's quickest teenager believes he can run sub-10sec

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UPDATED:

23:01 GMT, 22 July 2012

Adam Gemili thinks he can run sub-10sec in the Olympic 100 metres and is undaunted about running against the likes of defending champion Usain Bolt.

Earlier this month, the 18-year-old from Dartford, in Kent, confirmed his status as the quickest teenager on the planet by claiming the 100m world junior title in Barcelona in a championship record time of 10.05sec.

Quick as a flash: Adam Gemili (centre) believes he can run the 100m in under 10-sec

Quick as a flash: Adam Gemili (centre) believes he can run the 100m in under 10-sec

It meant he overtook Dwain Chambers as Britain's fastest junior and is now the best prospect of becoming the nation's first 100m Olympic finalist since Chambers finished fourth in Sydney 2000.

Gemili, who is aiming to reach the final on August 5, said: 'I'm just going there to enjoy myself. Hopefully, I can run my quickest time ever but the main thing is just to savour every moment of it. I know I'll never get the opportunity to go to a home Olympics again.

'A final is not out of the question. It's very possible if I perform well and get the right circumstances.

'I'd like to make it to the semi-final at least and then hopefully do well there.

Medal hope Gemili has his work cut out for him if he is to get a place on the podium on August 5

Medal hope Gemili has his work cut out for him if he is to get a place on the podium on August 5

'I'm getting closer and closer (to that 10-second barrier).

'It could potentially come at the Olympics. Obviously every sprinter wants to do it one day.'

Gemili said how at the start of the year he had been planning on watching the 100m on TV at home, adding: 'I might have even been on holiday. The fact that I'm in it is unbelievable.

'It's been very overwhelming. It's been very nice, everyone's been really lovely. Some people will occasionally be, “Oh, are you that sprinter Can we have a picture” It's nice people are familiar with you.'

London 2012: Adam Gemili is seconds away from lining up in 100m final

Gemili is seconds away from 100m final… just months after hanging up his football boots

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UPDATED:

21:33 GMT, 21 July 2012

When Adam Gemili settles into his blocks for the start of the gladiatorial contest that is the men's Olympic 100m, he will complete an extraordinary journey.

For in just eight months, the teenager from Dartford, in Kent, will have gone from playing football before a few hundred people in the Blue Square Bet South league to running in the blue riband event of the London Olympics in front of a capacity crowd of 80,000 people – and a worldwide television audience that could top the billion mark.

Fast show Adam Gemili wins men's 100 metres final at the World Junior Championships

Fast show Adam Gemili wins men's 100 metres final at the World Junior Championships

Should Gemili go all the way to the final on Sunday August 5, he can expect to line up in the Olympic Stadium against some of the greatest names in athletics. But if the thought of running against defending champion Usain Bolt, world champion Yohan Blake and American No 1 Tyson Gay sounds like a daunting prospect, Gemili is intent on taking it all in his stride.

'I'm just going there to enjoy myself,' he said. 'Hopefully, I can run my quickest time ever but the main thing is just to savour every moment of it. I know I'll never get the opportunity to go to a home Olympics again. I want to make the most of it.'

He has certainly not been slow in making the most of his extraordinary talent in the short time he has devoted to sprinting since putting his football career on ice in January to concentrate on the track.

Teenage kicks: Gemili playing football with Dagenham and Redbridge youth team

Teenage kicks: Gemili playing football with Dagenham and Redbridge youth team

Eleven days ago, he confirmed his status as the quickest teenager on the planet by claiming the 100m world junior title in Barcelona in a championship record time of 10.05sec. In doing so, he overtook Dwain Chambers as Britain's fastest ever junior – and made the debate around his tainted predecessor's right to run in the Games following his two-year doping ban seem wholly irrelevant.

Gemili's jet-propelled Gemili's jet-propelled progress has seen him heralded as Britain's most exciting sprint prospect in years and potentially the country's first 100m Olympic finalist since Chambers finished fourth in Sydney 12 years ago. After Gemili's triumph in Barcelona, Gay, a triple world champion, claimed the young Briton was destined to become 'one of the greatest sprinters of all time' and had every chance of putting himself among distinguished company in London's 100m final.

Fast show Adam Gemili wins men's 100 metres final at the World Junior Championships

Former Olympic sprint champion Maurice Greene agreed, as does Darren Campbell, a member of Britain's gold medal-winning sprint relay team at the Athens Olympics.

'Of all the young talent I've seen coming through over the years this guy has a special pedigree,' said Campbell. 'He won't be at his best until he's 26 in time for the 2020 Olympics. But he's no flash in the pan and he nailed the world juniors. Now he can just enjoy his first Olympics with no pressure. He could make the final, although he may have to run under 10 seconds to do so. If not, he will be a serious contender by the 2016 Games in Rio.'

Yet it was only two years ago that Gemili turned up at the English Schools Athletics Championships and, despite wearing trainers because he had no spikes to run in, produced a performance that was to change his life.

'I'd started running for my school just for fun really,' said the footballloving Gemili. 'I went along to the English Schools to see what would happen and I ended up coming second. I was wearing trainers because I didn't even have a pair of spikes.

'Everyone in the Kent team used to tease me about it and I remember people looking at me before the race doing my football warm-ups on the side of the track. About 10 minutes before the race, one of the coaches took me to the side and taught me how to get out of the blocks properly. I just ran the race and ended up with a time of 10.99, which was the first time I'd broken 11 seconds.'

A career on the track beckoned but
Gemili still harboured dreams of making it big in football. It was an
ambition the Dartford Grammar Schoolboy – the son of a Moroccan father
and Iranian mother – had held since he joined Chelsea's youth team at
the age of eight. He stayed for seven years before leaving to
concentrate on his education. Later he joined Reading for a year and had
just parted company with them in 2009 when teacher Gary Jones entered
him in the Kent Schools Athletics Championships.

Olympic champion: Usain Bolt

Olympic champion: Usain Bolt

I didn't ask whether he wanted to run,' recalled Jones. 'It was
difficult to get Adam to commit to athletics because football was always
taking up most of his time. But when he left Reading, I knew that it
was decision time and thought, “Let's just see if he fancies doing it
and see what happens”. He ended up running 11.09sec, which was good
enough to get into the English Schools.'

His performance there encouraged him
to invest in some proper spikes and last year he took silver at the
European Youth Athletics Championships in Estonia in 10.23sec. But the
lure of football was still strong, even if Gemili's trajectory in the
game was far from heading for the glittering heights.

He joined League Two side Dagenham and Redbridge as a defender and
they, in turn, sent him out on loan to play alongside John Terry's older
brother, Paul, at Blue Square Bet South side Thurrock.

Club secretary Mark Southgate recalls one of his last games for the club. 'A big centre-half from Tonbridge Angels took him out in the first minute in front of a crowd of 358. Not exactly great preparation for the Olympics,' said Southgate.

'He didn't play for us for four weeks, lost his place in the team and Dagenham didn't want him back. He was at a loose end, and I think that's why he took up athletics a bit more.

'He is a very nice lad, very humble. When he came to us we knew he had come second in the European juniors but he didn't seem to have any intention of doing athletics as a career. If he hadn't been injured, he'd probably still be playing for Thurrock, not going to the Olympic Games.'

Gemili's coach, Michael Afilaka, finally persuaded the teenager to hang up his football boots in January and the benefit of full-time athletics training saw Gemili record a personal best of 10.08sec at the start of June. Second place in the UK trials a few weeks later confirmed that he will be on the start line at London 2012.

'It's been a surreal few weeks,' said Gemili. 'When I was younger, I wasn't really that into athletics but since I've started taking it more seriously, I've done a lot of research because I like to know my sport really well.

'And to hear what people like Maurice Greene and Tyson Gay have been saying about me really is unbelievable.' His old schoolteacher, Gary Jones, is confident that Gemili will not be overawed by the occasion in the Olympic Stadium. 'He's a very laid-back and chilled out character so I'm sure he will take it all in his stride,' he said.

Gemili's parents, Az and Sacha, plan to be in the Olympic Stadium to see their son compete. Sacha said: 'When he did the egg-and-spoon race at primary school I was as excited as I was at the world juniors. I'm so happy for my son and I will be there in the Olympic Stadium just screaming my head off for him.'

The atmosphere will be a long way from the 524 seats in the main stand at Thurrock's Ship Lane ground but with the confidence gained from victory in Barcelona, there is every chance that Gemili could become the youngest man to break the 10 seconds barrier for the 100m.

'When I look back on the last two years it's amazing how far I have come,' he said. 'I might never have continued with athletics if it hadn't gone so well. I might just have thought, “Oh well, I'm not good enough for this” and gone back to playing football.'

Whatever happens in the Olympic Stadium, football's loss is surely Team GB's gain.

Fastest men.jpg

London 2012 Olympics: Adam Gemili runs fast 100m

From football wannabe to Olympic sprinter – Gemili is Britain's bolt from the blue

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 3 June 2012

Adam Gemili’s heart was set last year on becoming a professional footballer. The teenager’s goal after this weekend may be to run in the Olympic Games in London.

Gemili, a full back on the books of League Two side Dagenham and Redbridge, rose to the top of the year’s British 100 metres rankings when he ran inside the Olympic selection qualifying standard, not once but twice.

In heats at a meeting in Regensburg, Germany, he opened with 10.11sec, inside the 10.18sec which Britain’s Olympic selectors are demanding and which has so far defied all Britain’s experienced sprinters.

Leader of the pack: Adam Gemili is the only Brit to set the A standard in the 100m

Leader of the pack: Adam Gemili is the only Brit to set the A standard in the 100m

In the final he improved to 10.08sec, the fastest time ever run by a European 18-year-old — and he was last out of the blocks. Only Dwain Chambers among Britons has ever run faster as a junior, but he was 19 at the time.

‘When I ran my heat and saw I’d run 10.11 I jumped in the air while still slowing down. The physios told me to calm it down else I’d injure myself,’ said Gemili, whose previous personal best was 10.23sec.

‘So I was a bit calmer after the .08 but it was still the best feeling in the world. It feels really good to have run the A standard but more so to be a junior and have done the time.

‘It shows other juniors what can be done and not to think only seniors can do it. They can compete at that level, too.’

Gemili, who was born in London of Moroccan-Iranian descent, played on loan last season for Blue Square Bet South side Thurrock. The former Dartford Grammar School pupil was at Chelsea for seven years from the age of eight and said last year that football would always come first but now he is less sure. ‘This year may decide,’ he said.

Decisions, decisions: Gemili (right) also has hopes of pursuing a football career

Decisions, decisions: Gemili (right) also has hopes of pursuing a football career

His aim for the summer was the world junior championships in Barcelona. He tops the world rankings for that after his Regensburg runs but having achieved the Olympic qualifying standard twice he has only to finish in the first two at the trials in three weeks to win a place in London.

Chambers, Marlon Devonish and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, Britain’s trio in last year’s world championships, have all failed so far to achieve the standard. Chambers takes another run at it in the Paris suburb of Montreuil on Tuesday.

Gemili later anchored to victory a British relay team that featured Christian Malcolm, 15 years his senior. Malcolm celebrated Sunday’s 33rd birthday a day early when he won the 200m in a selection qualifying time of 20.46sec, while Anyika Onoura became the first of Britain’s specialist women sprinters to qualify in the 200m with a time of 22.93sec that equalled her career best.

To put Gemili’s achievement into context, just 10 days ago he tweeted: ‘Hope in the end all of this is worth it because right now I’m feeling a bit lonely.’

The weekend’s outstanding British performance belonged to Olympic gold medal contender Mo Farah. He ran the year’s fastest 5,000 metres in 12min 56.99sec in the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene. As significant was victory by a margin of five seconds over fourth-placed Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the Olympic champion and world record holder.

Brit special: Mo Farah set the fastest 5,000m time in the world this year

Brit special: Mo Farah set the fastest 5,000m time in the world this year

‘He’s a great athlete; we should never doubt him,’ said a respectful Farah, last year’s world champion.

But Farah’s last lap in only 56.2sec was too much for his rivals, Isiah Kiplangat Koech, training partner Galen Rupp and Bekele who finished in that order behind him.

‘I think Mo is the best distance runner in the world right now,’ said his American coach Alberto Salazar.

At the same Diamond League meeting Shara Proctor, the long jumper forced to bid for British selection by Olympic rules that deny recognition to her British Dependent Territory island of Anguilla, beat both world champion Britney Reese and Olympic champion Maurren Higa Maggi with a jump of 6.84m. Two more jumps of 6.75m and 6.74m were also beyond anything the two champions could achieve.

‘With that being only my second competition, I’m looking to go further his summer. I feel like I’ve got a lot more to come,’ said Proctor, who comes to Europe to compete in Oslo on Thursday.

Less pleased with the Eugene meeting was European triple jump champion Phillips Idowu. He injured himself on his third attempt and retired, finishing third in a competition won by world champion Christian Taylor.

One British record did fall as US-based Barbara Parker reduced the 3,000m steeplechase record set by Helen Clitheroe at the 2008 Olympic Games by almost five seconds in 9min 24.24sec.