Pushing forward from the Welsh Open, the Pathway Squad took another step up attending the British Championships in the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield this weekend, which was to be a level up for the players on their competitive journey.
Big pools full of elite Judoka meant that the competition would be fierce and all contests would be of a very high standard.
Antoni Zietala was up first in the U66kg category. There were 39 fighters in the category. Antoni won his first match by two waza ari throws to get through to round of 32. Antoni lost to Giglashvil, one of the tournament favourites and dropped to repechage. Another loss in the repechage ended his day. A great win in the toughest competition of the year!
Aodhan McGivern also won his first match by ippon with drop seoi nage and moved to round 2. Aodhan lost to eventual bronze medallist, Ben Nunn and dropped to repechage where his day ended. Again, there were 33 fighters from across the UK in Aodhan’s category, and with two years still at this age category, we have high hopes of medals in the future.
Sofia Richardson rounded up day 1 in a very strong pre cadet U44kg category. Frantic and ferocious girls took to the mat. Sofia narrowly lost in her first match that was stopped and started for medical attention to both girls. A waza ari each coming in to the final seconds and unfortunately Sofia got caught and dropped to repechage. After a tremendous battle, Sofia lost in the repechage. The standard of fighters was of the highest quality, and Sofia gained a great experience of high class competition.
Day 2 saw Jessica Mann compete in the Cadet U57kg. First fight of the day saw Jessica have two solid submission attempts, but then got caught by the strong attacks and aggression of the Sportif fighter. Another loss in the repechage for Jessica, but a very positive display and Jessica certainly put up a fight and she should be very proud of her performance and attitude.
The NIPS is now competing with the top players and beginning its journey at the biggest events in the UK. The experience gained is invaluable for these young fighters and will be very much building blocks for the future.
Lessons learnt will be recorded and presented through the sessions delivered at the NIPS sessions.
The NIJF had representation with Russell Brown leading the British Judo Safeguarding team at the event, and they were also represented by Stephen Sims and Gavin Abel as referees and table officials for the weekend.
Stephen McCluskey accompanied as Lead Pathway Coach.
Russell Brown as Chairman of the NIJF said:
“A lot of hard work has gone on behind the scenes, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Stephen, his team, the players and parents for attending the training, gelling as a unit and taking the step up to the next level of competition to represent Northern Ireland at such a prestigious event.
Also it was fantastic to see Stephen (Sims) and Gavin involved in an official capacity.
For us, it was fantastic to be able to support and help to fund these athletes through our funders SportNI on their journey!
This event has laid foundations for us to build on and we look forward to the development of the players and more competition events pushing forward into 2024.”
All in all, a fantastic development for Northern Ireland Judo!