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  • Writer's pictureRoss Taylor

DJC @ The Heart of England Championships

Judo competitions are graded, if you don’t know, from Level 1 to 5. Level 1 is a beginners competition, a mini mon or an interclub. Level 2 competitions are a slightly more serious affair, maybe at county level. You get the idea … with Level 5 competitions being proper big internationals with invites only from the National Governing Body and the competition is run by the IJF or the EJU.

So Lottie’s first foray into the big, bad world of pre-cadets was a small local tournament …. not ruddy likely, it was a full on Level 3 competition; the Heart of England! That’s the level of the British Schools National Championships, it’s the level where people attend to chase ranking points and you’ve got to be on your game. A minimum grade of 10th Mon was an entry requirement, so there were no easy fights on the cards. There was a big contingent of Scottish judoka and a considerable Northern Irish group as well. The event was oversubscribed with 420 judoka registered, to the point that even judoka on the BJA World Class Performance Programme couldn’t enter!

The age bands for junior judoka change in September of each year, so any judoka born in the years 2005 & 2006 are now called “pre-cadets”. The cadet level starts for 2004 born judoka (and the scary prospect of strangles and arm locks). The age bands are there to gradually bring the judoka through against a relatively smaller group of similarly mature players.

Lottie and I rocked up at the appointed hour on Saturday morning for weigh in and taking in the scene. She’d competed in the same hall at the 2017 Midland Area age bands (they were not allowing minors to enter this year), so we knew the layout but the atmosphere was distinctly different. The seniors were on the mat first and the game faces were on.

We bumped into Charlie from Team Bath, whom Lottie randori’d with on Monday at South Brent, who was in the first group. It started to sink in how different this was from all the events we attended last year. Very, very serious. Nerves started to jangle, even though we’d talked about this having no pressure and it was all about the experience.

With the event running about 1 ½ hours early, Lottie got called to Mat 3, just in front of the main stands. She was in a combined group of u48’s (her weight group) and u52’s. A winner takes all for the U48 gold up first, unfortunately, against a second year pre-cadet from Northern Ireland. Maybe the nerves got her, but Lottie was disappointed with her first fight when she watched the video back later that evening. Making mistakes is part of the journey and it’s a good sign of Lottie’s increasing maturity that she can now analyse and dissect her fights and immediately pin point things to improve.

Lottie put her obvious dissappointment to the back of her mind and dusted herself off for her second match. A much more competitive fight followed, taking a strong U52 girl into 2 minutes of golden score (no rest period for precadets, just get on with it!).

This girl was the top weight in the group and was almost 7kg heavier. With Lottie doing all the attacking but without score, it was a shame that she ended up on her front and in trying to turn her over, Lottie picked up a shoulder injury. A trip to the medics confirmed game over for the day. It was a shame as Lottie would have won her last fight.

As an aside, a couple of other coaches sought Lottie out and said they’d watched her fight and were impressed. “You were the much the better fighter” said one, which dulled the pain in Lottie’s shoulder a little.

Still a silver medal and some more experience to the judo portfolio to draw on in future, so a worthwhile trip. Next up on the precadet circuit is the Northern Home Counties Age Bands at the Hertfordshire University Sports Village. We’re expecting a much bigger turnout and a lot of London and South East judoka in attendance.

These are tough but necessary experiences to lay the foundations for the British Nationals in December. The journey continues.

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