Last weekend, three London teams entered the 18th edition of Sheffield USIST, the biggest international student judo tournament held in the UK.
This team event involves 4 guys and 2 girls fighting in weight order. This year, 4 students from Imperial made it into the London A team: Bronwyn Dawson (-57kg), Edouard Desclaux (-73kg), Rahul Bose (-81kg) and Ben Browne (-90kg). Sarah Taylor from UCL (+57kg) and Constantine Lerounis from King’s College (+90kg) completed the line-up.
The two other London teams, London B and C were also mostly drawn from Imperial freshers who had just started judo last term. Given their lack of experience and the fact that they were up against players who had competed for most of their lives, our rookies did extremely well.
London B faced very tough opposition in their pools with the hosts, Sheffield A and the A team from Southampton. While Sheffield proved to be too experienced, Kwasi and Ualikhan managed to win their fights against Southampton.
London C also faced tough opposition in their first pool fight against Newcastle A. Despite losing all their matches they showed great spirit and fought back well against Nottingham B.
Captained by Joe Skerman-Gray, Pasha Normahani nicely caught out his opponent with a hip throw. Lucien Copus managed to take his opponent down into ne-waza (groundwork) and won his fight with a hold down.
Finishing the game with three wins each, London C were unlucky not to make it to the next round, only losing the fight on points. London A fared better in the pool stage. The team won their pool, defeating Manchester B and Warwick B to progress to the round of the last 16 where they faced Southampton whom they beat.
In the quarter-final London A were faced by the toughest challenge of the tournament: Munster A. The German team has won the trophy so many times that in fact, Sheffield JC had to get a new one for this tournament.
London A, however, did not come here to pay respect to the Germans. We were here to win. And it started well with Bronwyn, Sarah and Edouard all winning their fights. Unfortunately, the next three fights went to the Germans, ending the game 3-3. To determine who would reach the semi-final, a random weight category was chosen for a sudden death rematch. Bronwyn Dawson from Imperial stepped up to the mark and beat her opponent with an osoto-gari (large outer reap) counter in a breath taking decider.
The semi-final ended with a comfortable win for the London squad against Aberystwyth (Wales). This put us into the final against Warwick A whom we had met in BUCS last year.
Bronwyn lost the first match, but Sarah, Edouard and Rahul quickly brought the score up to 3-1 for London. Ben started strong with a nice morote seoi-nage (drop shoulder) but was pinned to the ground by his opponent.
In a show of extreme commitment, he was able to escape from this position and to completely reverse the situation by taking his opponent himself into osae-komi.
While Ben, had managed to escape before the 25 seconds were over, his opponent could not which led us to victory. After the referee had given the signal and the fight was over, the sports hall was in turmoil. London A had made it and brought the trophy home for the first time since 2006.
On Saturday night, a suitable level of partying followed… We would like to thank our great coach Joe Doherty at ULU who has again lead us to victory. We are extremely proud of our beginners at Imperial and expecting great victories in BUCS in the future. We would also like to thank our current coaches at the Imperial College dojo, Wilhelm Kleiminger, Edouard Desclaux and Marc Beirne for their great support.