The British Open Masters Tournament is the most prestigious event in the competition calendar for judo players. I fought in the tournament in 2008 where I was awarded first place having beating a very skilled competitor by the name of Paul Hurst from Yorkshire and Humberside in the under 66kg. Unfortunately, I was unable to compete in the tournament in 2009 due to illness, so I was relishing the opportunity of being pitted against seasoned judo players in my weight category a year since I recovered from my illness.
The tournament was being held in Cardiff at the Sports Wales National Centre. I arrived at the weigh in with great anticipation – although I knew I was under the designated weight I was still nervous about competing. So many questions flow through your mind all at the same time: ‘how will I fight’, ‘has my preparation been correct’, ‘am I fit enough’. Whatever questions spring to mind, I know this is it. There is no turning back now. I made the 66kg weight category very easily, weighing in at 63.5kg though I knew the players in my weight group would be coming down from 70kg so strength and bulk would not be on my side. I would have to rely on speed, agility and quickness to beat my opponents.
I sat waiting anxiously for my weight category to be called over the tannoy, minutes passed which seemed like hours, but eventually they called my category. I had to go to mat 3 to start my quest to become British Open Grand Masters Champion. After giving my name to the table I took a deep breath waiting to hear who I would be matched against for my first fight. The official called Paul Hurst, a friend of mine, who I had previously fought in the final of the 2008 British Championships. He was a tough competitor then and he would be a tough competitor now. The clock started and we both bowed and began to out-think each other with our judo attacks. Two minutes into the fight Paul Hurst was given a penalty because the referee decided he was not making a decisive effort to grip me. I pressed on. Although I found it difficult to throw him, I knew I could beat him on penalties. The referee awarded Paul another penalty, and after 3 minutes I had won my first match.
My first fight was out of the way. I watched the other fighters carefully, trying to get an insight into their strengths and weaknesses. My second fight was against a young man from Erdington Judo club. Both of us attacked throughout the fight to obtain a score. In the last minute I managed to counter my opponent and held him flat on his back for 25 seconds to score ippon, a perfect score. I was now well on my way to the final. My third opponent was a very strong young lad from the North West. I tried a hip throw to the left, but I was picked up high above his head. I started to panic because I was now heading for the floor. Luckily for me, my opponent could not complete the throw and I landed face down. What a relief! I now had to step this fight up. I put in a good attack and scored 7 points. As we were called back to the middle by the ref, I knew what I had to do. I now had to try to beat my opponent convincingly. We both gripped, and I launched Into a hip throw attack and scored 7 points which secured me the match. After 3 difficult contests I had successfully made it into the final of the British Open for Grand Masters 2010. I was relieved and overwhelmed with joy. I had accomplished what my heart desired. Now it was time to regain focus and concentrate on the last fight to become national champion.
The announcement came and it was time to go back to work. I would have to muster up every last bit of energy. By this time I was feeling rather tired from competing, but I knew it would be the last fight of the day, so I would give it my all. My opponent was from the Midlands area, and had previously won the 73kg category in 2009, so as well as having a weight advantage on me I also had to fight a psychological battle with myself. We both bowed to each other, and the fight commenced. A series of attacks flowed from within me, but I was not having much success against the defensive style which my opponent decided to adopt. As the contest came to an end, I knew I had to score quickly because I did not want the fight to go into extra time. I stepped up my work rate by unleashing a barrage of attacks. My opponent matched me attack for attack, but I eventually saw an opening and I knew I had to go for it. I countered my opponent’s throw, and the referee awarded me 7 points. I was ecstatic as the time clock counted down to zero. We bowed, shook hands, and the referee awarded me the fight. The crowd cheered, showing their gratitude – it had been a good match. I was now crowned British National Open Champion I just wish my dad was here to see it.
GOD BLESS HIM.