To be part of the England judo squad is a massive achievement in its own right but to then be further selected to represent your country at the highly-respected Flanders International Judo Cup is an absolute honour.
Four judoka from the Berkhamsted-based Rush Judo club travelled to Sportveldenstratt in Lommel, Belgium, over the weekend as part of the England judo team for the top-level Flanders Judo Cup.
This is a yearly event and is considered to be one of the toughest competitions in Europe and is well-attended by European judoka from many countries including Russia, Czechoslovakia, Poland and the Netherlands as well as from even further afield from Japan and the USA.
With such a large competition, each weight group starts off in pools, with the successful judoka in the rounds progressing through into the knockout stages.
Saturday saw the England under-18s squad achieve a fantastic second-placed result and Rush Judo’s Emily Niven took to the podium to be presented with her prestigious silver medal, narrowly missing out on gold in a very close final.
Emily’s journey to silver was littered with inspiring ippon wins in a strong age category.
Next up were Rush’s 15-year-olds Haydn Williams and Hannah Niven, who were fighting against much older and more experienced judoka.
Despite this, both fighters managed to qualify for the knockout stages although they were unlucky not to progress further.
However, as first-year undr-18s cadets, this was still a really good performance with both gaining valuable points towards their black belts.
Sunday saw Rush’s Leah Hasler fighting in the under-15s. Leah has recently moved up to the U44 category and was up against judoka who had been in the group for longer and had a distinct weight advantage.
Leah gave a strong performance, taking her fights to golden score despite not progressing out of the pools.
All in all, it was another very successful weekend for Rush Judo with coaches Laurie Rush and Pete Brent supporting from back in the UK.
“We are so proud of how far they have come and the weekend’s performances; just to win points in such a prestigious event is a massive achievement. The club is very proud of them,” they said.