Thetford Closed — Eastern Area Championship 2010

Sunday, 5th December 2010

A team of 8 assembled outside Fenners Gym on a chilly Sunday morning for the short trip to Thetford and the Closed Area Championships. With both Kyu grades and Dan-grades mixed and a weight limit- busting Christmas dinner still being digested, the day promised some hard competition and good preparation for next term’s high profile contests

First on the mat and leading by example was men’s Captain, Kane Chandler. Kane was coming off the back of a recent gold medal outing at the Littleport Open, and looking to build on a year of strong performances. His first bout was undoubtedly the hardest- Kane’s opponent was ranked 7th in the country, is on the fringes of the British squad, and has beaten Kane on no less than three previous occasions. True to form Kane’s opponent came out with repeated strong attacks, that left Kane down by one yuko to nil. However, rising from the ground it was quickly apparent that all his efforts had left the opponent tired. Kane took advantage and performed a perfectly timed foot sweep, bringing his opponent down for Ippon, and the win. From there on Kane was on a roll, quickly dispatching two kyu grade opponents before facing a fellow black belt, and well regarded judoka from Anglia Ruskin University. Fighting cautiously Kane landed a huge Seonagi for his forth win and the Gold medal. Kane is now on a run of form and must surely be a medal contender for the ultra-competitive black belt division at BUSA.

Impressive though Kane’s performance was, standout of the day was undoubtedly Marianne. In only her second competition, Marianne showed what can be achieved with dedicated regular practice, dominating her first opponent before throwing her for ippon in a well executed counter throw. Bizarrely one of the mat-side referees disagreed, and following a short conference, the decision was reversed, and the opponent awarded the contest. Undeterred Marianne came out for her second contest and quickly took her opponent to the floor where she secured a tight pin. After a few seconds of fruitless struggle, the opponent had no-where to go, and submitted. It was at this point that the value of having such a well respected and experienced coach like Alec became apparent. Alec made a well judged intervention with the tournament referee, and backed by photographic evidence, the error of the early judging decision was recognised, and a re-match ordered. Making no mistake, Marianne threw her opponent for ippon once again, securing both the win, and a first gold medal. Outstanding.

Next up were club rivals Dave and Rob, in the U73kg division. Dave and Rob resumed hostilities from the recent Littleport open. In a nip-and-tuck contest, Dave managed to catch Rob with an Uchi-mata and got the win. Dave went on to win again, and in an impressively competitive division, secured a well-earned bronze. If he can pass the required gradings in time, Dave looks like being a bona-fide threat in the Kyu grade division at BUSA. Rob meanwhile lost two further hard fought contests, but came back strong in the end against his final opponent. In a stirring display of spirit/stupidity reminiscent of his 2009 varsity performance that saw him chocked unconscious through refusing to submit to a choke, Rob was caught in a painful and dangerous straight-arm bar. Despite the lock being extended, Rob refused to tap-out and the referee called for a stand-up. Rob took full advantage and went on to win the contest, earning him shared bronze-medal honours with Dave, signalling a temporary cessation of hostilities. Rob leaves the competition with both pride and elbow intact.

Storming the mat with hitherto unseen ferocity, it was clear that Max was not the same player who started with the club two years ago, when a mean look and a stiff breeze would send him to the canvass. These-days Max sports superior cardio and a relentless attacking style. While he was ultimately beaten by a more experienced (and equally aggressive brown belt) Max won enough contests to secure himself the Bronze medal, Cambridge’s third of the day. With ever improving stand-up and groundwork, the contest-hardened Max is looking like a good bet for the competitions next term.

Undoubtedly this was a tough day at the office for Jafar. His division was littered with judoka sporting the faded GBR and county patches that showed their considerable advantage in experience. Undeterred, Jafar fought hard throughout his contests, and although defeated, showed that with good fundamentals and fighting spirit, you can compete with the black-belts. Jafar will leave this competition with invaluable experience, experience that can only be gained through putting yourself forward and competing. He can look forward to successes in the new year.

Competing in the U100kg category and in his first judo competition since February 2009, Jamie ran into a black-belted brick wall, with his first opponent smashing him with a powerful osoto-gari in mere seconds. Moving into his second fight, Jamie, whose stand-up skills would be charitably described as ‘rudimentary’, made use of his Brazilian jiu-jitsu base, and after two pinning opportunities were disallowed, transitioned on the ground and quickly secured a tight-triangle choke from his own back. Seemingly with only moments before his opponent would be forced to tap-out or pass-out, the referee inexplicably called for a stand-up, denying Jamie a prized first win over a black-belt. Back on his feet and out of ideas, breath and penalty warnings, Jamie was thrown for ippon. In his final match Jamie managed a measure of redemption, staying busy with foot sweeps and sacrifice throws before finally winning an ugly contest and a fourth bronze for Cambridge. He returns to Cambridge determined to work harder on his grading techniques in an on-going quest to actually throw somebody forward.

Battling not only her opponents but a heavy cold, former women’s captain and club bulwark, Lisa endured a torrid affair with her first opponent who made consistent attacks, forcing Lisa on the defensive. Unfazed, Lisa would later remark that the attacks, though frequent, were ‘rubbish’. Lisa held on into overtime before finally winning with a hard-fought ‘golden score’. In her second contest, Lisa faced a fellow brown-belt. Still tired from the extended first match, Lisa was eventually pinned by a clearly ne-waza savvy opponent, but not before nearly securing an arm-bar victory of her own. When her final opponent pulled out of the bout, Lisa secured the silver medal and a moral boost in her ongoing march towards black-belt.

With all the results in, Cambridge secured two gold medals, one silver and five bronzes- an impressive haul that bodes well for the club’s fortunes next term. This competition should be an inspiration to other club members to step up- the race for places in the club’s teams is hotting up: With just three months to go and Team-Oxford looming large in the background, all roads lead to Varsity.