Olympians Ashley McKenzie and Colin Oates have renewed their judo careers after a short break – but they’ve had to fly to the other side of the world to do so.
The recent round of Judo’s World Cup has landed in Apia, Samoa and it marks the first part of a long distance double-header that also takes in a Grand Prix event in China. Fourteen nations are to take part which mostly consist of local neighbours in Oceania and Asia, but Great Britain have sent their top judoka, along with the USA’s and Canada’s, to vie for medals in the long run-up to Rio 2016. One odd inclusion is a small Slovenian inclusion, who have already endured a rather poor holiday this week.
Gemma Gibbons, silver medallist at the London 2012 Olympic Games, was due to be the star name in a strong British line-up but she hasn’t been able to recover from injury. This leaves eight males and four females to compete, seven of which have already completed their competitions and achieved medals. Sisters Louise and Kimberley Renicks, regulars in the World Cup and European events, swept their respective -52kg and -48kg categories respectively, both claiming a gold medal for their collection. The validity of such an event has to be called into question, however, when Louise only has to battle Hannah Trotter and Sharon Taylor of Australia for the prize. Even dafter, she stormed to her podium finish in under three minutes. Hardly worth it for all that travel, but it’s a great achievement for the Renicks sisters. Matthew Purssey, 2011 national seniors champion in the -90kg division, had substantially more work to do in claiming his gold, scoring three ippons in four bouts against Americans, Australians and a Russian.
The medal rush didn’t end there; Thomas Davis, Christopher Sherrington and Connie Ramsay all bagged a silver after coming up short in their finals, whereas Andrew Burns recovered from a brief blip to grab bronze against Ryan Dill-Russell of Australia. With more fights to come tomorrow morning, Britain have medalled in every event they’ve participated in today and you have to believe the awards haven’t finished coming our way.
The question is whether Ashley McKenzie is in the right place to claim victory in the -60kg tournament. He flopped out in the second round of the Olympics but he has a fairly straightforward challenge of Aussie Tom Pappas to come this week. Victory there guarantees him a relatively easy path to the medals, but is he ready? Following his surprising appearance on Celebrity Big Brother, it needs to be judo and not his celebrity commitments to the media that come to the fore in Samoa. For all other judoka to claim a medal and not McKenzie would be a great shame.