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120129 - Successful Commonwealth Championships

The Maltese Judo squad, made up of Brent Law, Jeremy Saywell, Patrcik Gamble, Joanna Camilleri, Marcon Bezzina,  Francesco Aufieri and Neville Thomas, accompanied by Envic Galea, Lamberto Raffi and Alex Bezzina, is currently in Cardiff competing at the Commonwealth Judo Championships.

Isaac Bezzina was the first winner of the day when he beat Peter Vincent from England (3 time bronze medallist in Junior Championships in Britain and England last year) by Ippon (full points).  He then beat Liam Dolkin from Scotland (2010 Cadet British Champion and 2011 British Junior bronze medallist) by Ippon in the semifinal. The final match was against Dominic Laing who has just won his bronze medal in the British Junior Trials last weekend. The finals were held on stage with a spectacular intro announcing Isaac Bezzina from Malta. Isaac fought till the end but he accumulated 2 shido & Dominic managed to score another Yuko against him. However, this was a huge success for Maltese Judo as Isaac won his first important medal in international judo – a silver medal at the Commonwealth Judo Championships.

The day didn’t start off too well for Jeremy Saywell, but definitely he managed to end it on a positive note! In the first contest, Connor Ireland (Wales) (bronze medallist at the British Trials & at the North Irish Open) took by surprise our Saywell & threw him for harai gochi (hip sweep). Ireland made it to the quarter finals, thus qualified Jeremy to the repechage and another chance to fight for the bronze medal. He eliminated Pierre Hockey from Guernsey with drop seio nage (drop shoulder trow) and then Benny Huynh from Australia (Cadet Continental Champion in 2010) with his famous Kata Guruma (shoulder wheel). His final match for the bronze medal was against Shawn Kearney from South Africa. Jeremy beat Kearney with yet another technique – this time a Ko-Uchi Gari (Minor Inner Reap), thus winning his first Commonwealth Medal: a Bronze Medal!

Francesco Aufieri had his first experience in an international and intercontinental Cadet event. His first fight was a very close encounter with Brendan Nel from South Africa. Francesco handled his opponent well, and at the end of the contest, none of the competitors had a winning score. Francesco went into Golden Score however  none of the competitors managed to score a point. The contest ended in Hantei (Referee decision) where the referees awarded this contest to Nel. Since Nel’s next fight was the semifinals, Aufieri was recovered to fight for the bronze medal. Unfortunately, he didn’t manage to beat Christopher Golding from South Africa.

Neville Thomas was the first Maltese to go up on stage and it was also our first experience contesting the Veteran categories in the Commonwealth Judo Championships. Neville’s first contest was against Mark Desfountain from South Africa (silver medallist at these Championships). Neville was recuperated in the repechage, but lost his second fight against David George from England. Comments from the team up in Cardiff were that Neville was very unlucky on the day, and deserved at least a bronze medal.

Lamberto Raffi’s comments at the end of the first day were: “I am very happy with the overall performance of the team. Jeremy is very strong and could have even won the gold medal. Isaac played very well with his grips and gave a great performance. We look forward to tomorrow’s senior categories!”

Following the successful 1st day of competition in Cardiff, with Isaac Bezzina winning silver and Jeremy Saywell winning bronze, it was the turn of the senior team to perform.

Marcon Bezzina’s first encounter was with an old team member from Bath University, Sarah Connolly (Wales). Connolly has a collection of podiums in British Opens and also a silver at the Commonwealth Championships in 2006 and a bronze in a Junior European Cup. Marcon went on the mat very decisive and strangled her opponent in a very short time. Her next match was against Samantha Dobrowski (England). The match was very balanced out, and both players had a yuko (minimum point) until few seconds from the final, Dobrowski took Bezzina by surprise and threw her for Ippon (full points). Our Marcon was recuperated to fight for the bronze medal, and her first contest in the repechage was against Esmarie Pretorius from South Africa, who has recently placed 7th in the World Junior Championships. Marcon went out very decisive and beat Pretorius. The repechage final was again against Connolly (Wales). Connolly tried her best to beat our Marcon, but her best was not enough. Marcon pinned down Connolly and beat her by Ippon. The bronze medal fight was against Kate Harris, another English judoka with a collection of podiums in International tournaments. Unfortunately, Harris beat Marcon and thus Marcon placed 5th. This result was not enough for Marcon, and though she had already fought 5 contests out of which she won 3, she registered her intent of fighting in the open category. This meant that there was no limit to the weight of her opponents. It was definitely not Connolly’s day, when she was drawn against our Marcon and had to fight her for the third time. Marcon again beat Connolly, this time with 2 yuko, and proceeded to the semi-final of the category. Next opponent was another South African, Natasha Glassford (twice silver medallist in African Championships). Marcon went out on the mat with total determination of eliminating Glassford as well, and she did. Marcon qualified for the final match which was held in the evening. After that contest, Marcon commented that though she was tired. she was adamant that she was to experience firsthand the spectacular presentation for the finals. In the final, Caroline Kinane (England) used her 15kgs more than our Marcon to take her down and then locked her arm, thus Marcon got her silver medal. This was Malta’s first (senior) silver medal at the Commonwealth Judo Championships.

The other star at these championships was Jeremy Saywell. He was determined that one medal is not enough, and thus went out totally focused on getting to the podium. The first opponent was Patrick Gane from Canada who beat our Jeremy. Jeremy was recuperated to fight for bronze medal. In the first contest he fought Benny Huynh from Australia, whom he had beaten the day before. The next match was against the Welsh veteran Jason Picton (Gold Medallist in Commonwealth Championships) whom Jeremy eliminated by Ippon. The bronze medal fight was against another host country Judoka: Jamie Macdonald. The contest was an impressive one. Jeremy was losing by Wazari, but that did not demoralize our Saywell. In a matter of seconds, he scored a Yuko and then a wonderful Ippon with tomeo-nage (stomach throw), thus winning his second bronze medal.

Brent Law’s first contest was against the Australian Nathan Katz (2 silver medals at the Continental Championships), but that didn’t go too well. Brent had a second chance to try for a medal. Brent eliminated all his opponents in the repechage: first the Welsh Ashley Davies, and next Boanerges Nartey from Ghana. The bronze medal fight was against the Autralian Tom Pappas (7th 2010 World Cup). At first, the contest started off well balanced out, however, Pappas surprised our Law and threw him for Ippon. Brent placed 5th in his category.

In the case of Joanna Camilleri, it just wasn’t her day! Joanna is known as a very strong Judoka who fights with grit and courage, but in Judo you are champion for a day – one day you win the world championships and the other you lose in the first round. Joanna lost her fights against the English Kate White and the Scottish Chloe Jackson (twice silver medallist in European Cups and twice gold medallist in the Junior National Championships).

2 of our team contested the -90kgs senior category: Isaac Bezzina who had already won silver in the junior -90kgs category and Patrick Gamble, who competed for North Ireland since he does not possess a Maltese Passport. Isaac was exhausted from the day before, since he finished his final match late at night. He still made his weight and went on the mat against the English Nicoli Daley (7th European Cup 2011) however he surrendered during the match when he was feeling too sick to continue. Patrick was very unlucky when he was drawn against the Canadian Guillaume Perrault (gold & bronze medallist in World Cup). Perrault won the contest against Patrick and went on to win the silver medal. Patrick’s next contest was against the Welsh Ifor Caper, who was also eliminated by Parrault. Patrick threw Caper with a perfect sesai tsuri komi ashi (Lifting Pulling Ankle Block) for Ippon. The bronze medal fight was against the Scottish Danny Roberts, however Patrick did not manage to beat him, and thus placed 5th place.

Our President, Envic Galea, and our coaches Lamberto Raffi and Alex Bezzina were very happy with the overall performance of the team. Lamberto commented that ‘Marcon fought very well using her head and and attacked always in the right time with the right technique. This has been the best performance I’ve seen from her since I’ve been following her. Brent was very focused on the competition. If Jeremy fought in the juniors the same as he fought in the seniors, he would have had a guaranteed gold medal. He gave his utmost and stayed concentrated throughout the event’.

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