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  • Writer's pictureRoss Taylor

DJC @The Kent International Judo Championships 2017.

The Kent International Judo Championships 2017.

Alanna, Jack and Jake made the long trip this weekend, to the Medway Park Leisure Centre in Gillingham to compete in The Kent International Judo Championships 2017. Drake Judo club’s first International competition entries!

Tony very kindly drove and we left Friday lunchtime, the three kids happily playing on various tech and the three adults happily gossiping. Bit of a delay on the M25 followed by a pub tea, we finally reached our hotel about half past eight.

Saturday arrived and it was up early and off to Medway for 8am for Alanna’s weigh in. Medway had five mats and an expected 700 Judoka competing. It was quite some venue. Gradually the hall filled up and we started to spot the international back patches. Players from Belgium, The Netherlands and beyond. With kids travelling that far we knew the very best were here. Everyone was in good spirits and the kids were very chilled out, happily messing around with each other and very relaxed about the whole affair. Almost as though competing at this level is something you do every weekend. Jake weighed in at 8.30 and after an hour or so the warm up began. The Medway was now pretty full, with a couple of thousand people, and parents and coaches giving last minute advice in a whole range of different languages. We spotted a few friendly faces from other local clubs,

but only a handful. The excitement was building….

Alanna’s group was called about 10.30 and she calmly went over to mat 2 with Ros as her coach. Alanna’s stepped onto the mat against her first opponent with her usual calmness and quickly started to dominate the fight, both girls were well matched but Alanna saw her chance and turned in for a fantastic Harai goshi and the Ippon was scored! The day had started well and the rest of us cheered our hearts out! Alanna had a short wait before her second fight, and once again took to the mat calmly, this time against a familiar face from a local club. This time the fight lasted a bit longer, a minuet or so, with both girls trying to to get the upper hand. Once again Alanna saw her chance, stepped in and threw for Ippon! DJC erupted into cheers again. We watched as Alanna and Ros spoke to the table officials and the turned away and started to walk back towards the seating area….. It was all over. Alanna had taken gold at ‘’The Kents’..

Drake’s first International Champion. Once again we erupted into cheers!

The next half hour flew by, and Jake’s group was called… well half of it. Fifteen under 34’s were called up and Jake’s heart sank as he realised he was in a massive group. It was going to be a tough group to say the least. Another half hour our so and group B was called, this time, including Jake. A group of thirty to battle through. Once again Ros coached and Jake went to mat 1 to join his group. If he was nervous, he hid it well, and seemed quite happy waiting his turn doing a few stretches beside the mat and making Ros laugh with his usual cheeky humour. First up Jake fought a lad who had a English squad badge. It was going to be tough. Theyseemed well matched and the although the other lad threw Jake for a Wazari, Jake quickly dominated him in groundwork. Several times Jake took him to the ground, and every time the other lad only defended, he definitely didn’t like being on the ground with Jake. The fight continued and, Jake countered and the lad spun out, seeming to flip over using his head and the ref called matte. As the ref discussed the manoeuvre with the table, an announcement for Alanna’s medal ceremony was called. Ros refused to leave Jake mid fight, potentially missing her own daughters medal ceremony… a fantastic example of the ‘DJC family’ spirit. Once again Thank you Ros!! The seconds ticked by and the fight restarted, the other lad took another Wazari and Jake continued to dominate on the ground. Unfortunately, time ran out for Jake and he lost his first. Ros made it just in time to the other side of the hall to see Alanna step up on thepodium. Phew! Jakes second opponent, didn't want to compete against him so he went through to the third round on a bye and had a long wait as the massive groups were whittled down. Unfortunately Jakes third fight, against the eventual silver medalist was another tough one. Seemingly well matched, about 45 seconds in, Jake was countered with a lovely throw at it was all over. Jake came 15th in his group of 30, and his frustration disappeared after twenty minutes or so and he was soon bounced back and was happily playing with his friends again.

Jack had a soul destroying, agonising, five hour wait between weighing in and stepping onto the mat finally at 3.58pm. Another big group, fifteen this time. Jack’s demeanor changed as he stepped on, one second a kid who been stuck in a sports hall waiting for over eight hours.. The next second focused and gentle bouncing on his toes on the edge of the mat showing his opponent he was ready to compete. Hajime was called and Jack came out with his trademark speed and professionalism. He is definitely at home on the mat at this level. There was a flurry of attacks on both sides as, they both fought to get the upper hand. Jack turned in for a throw, and the other lad, who from the replay seems trip over his own feet, stumbled and took Jack back, countering him for Ippon. A close fight that could have gone either way. After a short rest Jack was straight back on. Another good fight, with two experienced Judoka struggling to get the upper hand. Unfortunately, Jack was manoeuvred into the corner and he stepped out of the area, so he received a penalty. The boys continued, both struggling to get the upper hand. Each one’s attempt to break the balance or throw was met by an equal attempt to counter. About ninety seconds in the ref called matte, and he gave Jack a penalty for not attacking. To be fair it was understandable, but as they appeared deadlocked, it should have been both or neither of them that were penalised. Jack came back more determined, his professionalism shining through and moving forward, moving his opponent, attacking with new found energy, only for the ref to stop the match again and give Jack a penalty for not attacking? Sadly that was it. All over for Jack. It’s a tough game at Jack’s level, and after an understandable look of disappointment and frustration passed. Ten minuets later he walk out of the Medway with his teammates, with their heads held high and smiles on their faces.

Now International veterans who had earnt their back patches! Personally, I think it was a fantastic experience, for both the kids and the adults. Each one of us cheered as if it was our own child or sibling on the mat. Between fights, in the hours that ticked by, it was fantastic to see our DJC hoodies and ‘Get a grip’ shirts dotted around the arena. I couldn’t help but wonder how many more Drake Judoka will fight here, and beyond in the coming years. The pride I felt when I heard over the tannoy ‘.....and gold goes to Allana Hopkins of Drake Judo Club’ will stay with me for a very long time. Surprisingly, the five and a half hour trip home flew by, and although they were tired, none of the kids fell asleep, instead keeping each other amused and playing games. Various games consoles soon disappeared and were replaced with singing and laughter as we headed home.

Dan Brown. Team DJC.

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