Judo: Fit-again Gemma Gibbons is on the march

A close scrap: Ashley McKenzie, right, in action at the British Championships.       Picture: Steve ellis
A close scrap: Ashley McKenzie, right, in action at the British Championships. Picture: Steve ellis
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IT HAS been an unforgettable couple of weeks in both Gemma Gibbons’ personal and professional life.

On New Year’s Eve, the Londoner became engaged to fellow Olympic judoka Euan Burton. If that wasn’t enough reason to celebrate, Gibbons then claimed her first British Championships title at the English Institute of Sport on Sunday. It was Gibbons first tournament since breaking her hand at the London Games.

The 26-year-old, who now trains at JudoScotland’s Performance Centre in Ratho, won all five of her contests in the women under 78kg category, including what was effectively a gold medal match against Caroline Kinnane. Abu Dhabi Grand Prix silver medallist Natalie Powell, Gibbons main title rival, did not compete in the Sheffield event because of the heavy snow in Wales.

Gibbons, who became British Judo’s first Olympic medallist in 12 years when she scooped silver last summer, said she felt rusty following surgery but was relieved to make a winning return.

“I’ve never been senior British champion before, so it was great to come away with that title,” she said.

Burton, 33, watched in Gibbons corner as she saw off Kinnane’s challenge in the final.

“It was great because he’s a fantastic judo player,” said Gibbons. “He was there to support me, and I’m lucky that I get to tap into all his skills.”

Paralympic silver medallist Sam Ingram bagged the bronze medal in the -90kg class.

Read full round-up and see picture special in Friday’s Grassroots.