Great Britain at the World Judo Champs 2011 Pt 2 – The players

My first post on the World Judo Championships in Paris described pretty clearly how our results at this years world championships were below par in terms of comparison to previous results from GB judo. It should also be pointed out that the goals set by UK sport were a minimum of one medal and a maximum of three medals and considering this is what we have consistently achieved in the past I do not think they were asking for too much, especially considering their £7.5m investment of tax payers money/lottery money for this Olympic cycle. But if UK sport are going to improve British judo they need to target their efforts in the correct place, make the correct changes etc so over the next few posts I will consider this from different perspectives.

A good place to start the analysis of our performance is the players. So lets look at the team that was taken and their past achievements according to a brief look at judo inside.

– 60 Ashley McKenzie (u23 European champions 2010, World cup gold, 2011 (Warsaw) and some European cup golds 2010/11)

-60 James Millar  (7 world cup medals, most recent 2011)

-66 Colin Oates (Bronze European Champs 2011, 3 world cup medals)

-66 Craig Fallon (European Champion 2006, World Champion 2005, World silver 2003, 8 world cup medals)

-73 Danny Williams (European cup gold, 2011)

-81 Euan Burton (World Bronze 2010, World Bronze 2007, 3 x European Bronze, 6 world cup medals)

-90 Winston Gordon (5th Athens Olympics, Bronze Europeans 2006, 11 world cup medals)

-100 Jame Austin (3 European cup silvers in 2010/11)

-52 Sophie Cox (2 European Silvers & 2 European Bronze, 10 world cup medals)

-57 Gemma Howell (1 world cup bronze, 3 European cup golds in 2010, 2 u23 European Championships Bronze)

-63 Faith Pitman (2 world cup medals, 7th in world championships 2007)

-63 Sarah Clarke (15 world cup medals, European Gold, silver and bronze)

-70 Sally Conway (3 world cup medals, 5th in World Championships 2009, 2 European cup golds in 2011)

+78 Karina Bryant (7 times world medallist, 4 x European champion, 16 world cup medals)

+78 Sarah Adlington (7 world cup medals, 2 European cup medals in 2011)

Just to summarise, this team had a world champion and 10 other world championship medals, 5 European championship golds & 12 other European medals as well as around 90 world cup medals. I haven’t compared this to other teams but to me it seems like the players are, or at least were capable of medalling at a world level.

Maybe now we should look at how the team did in this years world championships.

– 60 Ashley McKenzie – two wins

-60 James Millar  – two wins

-66 Colin Oates – four wins

-66 Craig Fallon – no wins

-73 Danny Williams – one win

-81 Euan Burton – one win

-90 Winston Gordon – one win

-100 James Austin – no wins

-52 Sophie Cox – one win

-57 Gemma Howell – two wins

-63 Faith Pitman – one win

-63 Sarah Clarke – one win

-70 Sally Conway – no wins

+78 Karina Bryant – two wins

+78 Sarah Adlington – no wins

This gives us 15 players with 18 wins, or an average of 1.2 wins per player. Not only that but we should consider the countries we got some of our wins against. Colin Oates had a tough draw in places (FRA & BRA) but in many respects had an easy draw beating MDA, and GHA (the GHA boy trains in the UK and only 2-3 times per week). Sarah Clark’s win was against SEN, one of Ashley’s wins was against MLT, Winston’s win was against PAN and Sophie’s win was against MAC. Please beware I am not slatting the players for this, all I am saying is that we should be beating countries like SEN, MLT, PAN, GHA and MAC with the judo history and funding of Great Britain.

Some players had some fantastic wins, Colin Oates beat former European silver medalist Zagrodnik from POL in his first fight, he also beat Larose of France in his fifth fight. Karina Bryant beat Sadkowska of POL in her second fight. For me the British player of the week was Gemma Howell, she beat the former world champion, Ribout on home ground, she then beat world bronze medallist Karakas of Hungary in her second fight before she was beaten in fight three by the infamous Isabella Fernandez of ESP in a tactical fight and lets be honest, she can play tactics with the best!

I think it is fair to say we have a fairly old team and although many of them have world and European medals some of them haven’t medalled at this level for a while. But I also think if you took Euan, Sarah C, Karina, Craig, Winston you could/should expect one or two medals. I also think Gemma, Sally, Sophie, Ashley, Sarah A, Faith could have been expected to finish 5th or 7th and Danny, James A, James M should have expected to be around 9th.

Is this a fair expectation looking at the medals they have already achieved? I would be interested to hear if I am expecting too much, please comment.

If this is what could be expected then  even  performing below expectation should have brought home a medal (maybe two) and 3-4 5th/7th places but we didn’t.

I don’t think we should make excuses, I have read that two players in each weight group causes issues (Nicola Fairbrother) and even our own performance director has said this  “We have to look positively because the Olympic tournament will be half the numbers, with only one fighter from each country, if they qualify, which will make it a much more level playing field.” (Hick’s, August 2011). I would ask this, does a confident country pray for half the numbers? Shouldn’t we be confident with our judo team and the budget we have? Also, lets be honest, every country has the same problem! They all have to compete against two French, two Japanese etc and they don’t have the budget we do, many probably can’t afford to send two players in each weight group, which brings me on to the next topic….

Why did we not send a full team? No 48kg player, no +100 player, no -78 player. We also only sent one player in many of the weight groups, what about Sophie Johnson or Siobhan O’Neil at u52kg? Why not another -73kg player – Jan Gosiewski, Owen Liversy, Lee Shinkin? At u81kg they could have sent Tom Reed, David Groom, I could go on but this post is getting long!

I know some of the excuses that will coming back, Tom, Jan and Megan were at the university world championships just before is one, well okay maybe that is fair enough but I am sure a program could have been put in place. The other excuse is money, well firstly Paris is very close, secondly if you don’t have enough money in your £7.5m budget to send a full team to the world championships then maybe we need to consider someone else managing the budget?

Last thing on this, three players were brought out at the end of the competition for the teams Siobhan O’Neil, Matt Clempner and Matt Purssey – none of their weight groups had two players in from GB so why not fight them?

For me the players aren’t to blame, sure they could have done better but I don’t believe any of them stepped on the mat thinking “I don’t want to win” or “I’d rather be on COD”  and I certainly don’t think they had been out the night before or anything like that. I think they didn’t win for other reasons. In the next post I shall continue this blog topic considering the high performance directorate in British judo and the system within the UK.

Please comment, sorry the post got so long :p

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Great Britain at the World Judo Champs 2011 Pt 2 – The players

  1. Becky

    Thanks for your thoughts on this Bob. I don’t pretend to understand ANY of the issues (political and otherwise) that are really at the heart of this problem. I appreciate hearing your opinions that spring from a much longer involvement with judo, the BJA, etc. I am new to the judo community and would like to support the players I know (of course, that makes me hopelessly biased) but have no reference points with which to anchor myself. Pray, continue. 🙂

  2. stephen morgan

    What a great couple of articles. I posted a similar blog on one of the forums a couple of years ago (although nowhere near as eloquent and detailed as you have done), and the response I got was shocking. “Stop being so pessimistic” I was informed. I am not one to get into heated debates through the computer but I so dearly wanted to reply “not pessimistic, just realistic”.
    I am not well informed enough to post opinions on exactly why its all gone so terribly wrong, however from the outside looking in, it is obvious that there are major problems and have been so for a long time now.
    I look forward to reading part3.

  3. Duncan Stewart

    thhe problem hasnt just appeared it has been heading this way for some years now, it is not the players fault as they give their all and if they were honest a few of them would have expected to medal in paris, however if we really want a successfull team then we need to get it right at grass roots level, there is no real investment in our younger players and if anything as we have now moved to regional squads there is even less quality randori for them in an already small base, training is geared to a small group of players, if we look at education children progress at different speeds and the same applies to sport, I fear we overlook children because they are not winning early on and as we give them little or no encouragement they leave the sport and look eslewhere then its too late, also coaches are expected to hand over players they have coached from this early age and then have little or no influence on their progress feed back from squads is patchy at best and we are all pulling in different directions thinking what we are doing is right for the player who then doesnt know who to listen to, they trust and respect their coach but “The Squad” tell them this is the way and it all ends up being a bit shambolic, lastly young children/youths need family support in all aspectts of their lives so why do we insist they move to the other end of the country to achieve their goals, home sickness and other distractions take over and thy dont perform or progress in the propr manner then we ask why we dont have the success the investment deserves perhaps its because the oney is spent on the wrong things.. Rant over

  4. Hi Bob,
    From a Brit living overseas (Australia), it is interesting and disappointing to see such a poor results. One argument that I hear in Australia is that our players do not have the exposure to high level contest and hence find the adjustment to great when they are faced with it. I wonder if the policy of restricting the number of high level events that the GB team compete in is having a similar effect.
    Mike Griffiths

  5. Shaun Brooks

    Not a bad article Bob.
    Main problem is there is no money in the sport. Due to this we loose too many good junior / young senior players (I would consider myself one of those). If we look at olympic sports such as rowing and cycling, which have had major investment, the amount of medals they win in the olympics speaks for its self. The coaching was there when I was competing Brian Moore / Lee Davis / Mike Liptrot to name a few and we do have good judoka’s. But until this countries attitude changes towards olympic sports i’m afraid things will never change.

    • How can you say the money isn’t there? We have a £7.5m budget, podium players should be on around £28,000 per year, that’s not a bad wage. Younger players could be on about £16,000.
      If we had a coherent structure athletes could work, be in education or apprenticeships act and this could bring in money for many of them. The issue is that the coaches don’t care about the players outside of the judo and therefore there is not a holistic approach to their development.

      • Shaun Brooks

        In a ideal world that would be great for the sport in this country. But again with this countries attitude to olympic sports it will be a long process. If you compare us with the U.S or China for developing talent in olympic sports we are a long way off.
        I’ve been out of the game for some time so I have no idea on finance for the players now but for me it was not in my best interest to take it up full time and stay .

        Reading your article again Bob i’m starting to feel old lol. Used to train / compete with Craig and Colin. Wish all the best for the squad at the world cup next month.

        Shaun

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  8. I agree 100% on not sending additional players Bob. It just doesn’t make sense. I talked to Tom Reed about this as soon as I saw the draw.

    It just doesn’t make sense – what happens if Burton gets injured before the Olympics. Wouldn’t it make sense for Tom (or someone else) to have World Championship experience as the reserve?

    Also from a player’s point of view this is catastrophic. You sacrifice so much going full-time – not only do you deserve the rewards of competing at the highest level possible for your attainment – but your post judo CV needs it too. Not enough people fully understand the sacrifices made by elite athletes (I can testify to this personally). You need a major event to hang your hat on when you retire. But perhaps more importantly, what effect does it have on the number 2’s, who when there was a clear opportunity for them to compete, were denied it? Disenchanted can’t begin to cover it…I am very perplexed.

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  10. I am really enjoying this discusion. I take it that the £7.5m from Uk Sport was meant entirely for the benefit of the competitors and not to increase the numbers employed by the association.

  11. No, the £7.5m is the high performance budget, this would include the wages of high performance staff. The figures are on the BJA website, from memory it was £430,000 per year for wages (almost half the budget) and for 2010/11 I think it was about £189,000 for the BPJI. But I must reiterate this is from memory so don’t quote me!

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