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Craig Fallon swaps weight category on return to judo

By Ollie Williams
BBC Sport in Sheffield

Craig Fallon
Fallon took a break from judo after a poor showing in Beijing

Beijing Olympian Craig Fallon won at Sunday's British trials on his return to judo after a two year absence.

The 28-year-old fought in the 66kg category and avoided Ashley McKenzie, who pulled out of the event late on with an injury, in the 60kg division.

Fallon's choice indicated - with one contender per weight allowed for the 2012 Olympics - he may avoid a showdown for a place with rising star McKenzie.

"I'm not ready to finish," Fallon, 2005 world champion at 60kg, told BBC Sport.

"I still feel like I've got two or three years left fighting."

Fallon explained his decision to fight at 66kg on struggling to qualify for his old category following an extended time away from the sport after his disappointing seventh place at the Beijing Olympics.

"I wasn't feeling too motivated running up to this. I started dropping the weight and didn't feel great, I was too dehydrated for the weight that I was," he said.

"I decided to pull out and start at the weight above. I didn't think I was going to be able to get in and fight, but other people pulled out, I turned up on Saturday and managed to get in.

I don't know if Craig's avoiding me. I haven't gone up and asked him, that's not me," said McKenzie

Ashley McKenzie

"It's been a good day, it's great to turn up and fight. It's good just to be around and back on the mat."

Fallon beat Nathon Burns to the men's 66kg title, while James Millar won at 60kg.

These trials, coupled with international form, help British Judo decide which Olympic hopefuls will represent GB at top competitions throughout 2011, a vital year for London 2012 qualification.

With one place per weight category, McKenzie, 21, would have presented a challenging obstacle to Fallon's dream of an Olympic comeback.

Earning the European Under-23 title proved the highlight of an excellent 2010 for the charismatic Londoner McKenzie, who is currently ranked 43rd in the world and expects to return from a back injury in two weeks.

"I don't know if Craig's avoiding me. I haven't gone up and asked him, that's not me," said McKenzie, who was introduced to British television audiences as a teenager in the BBC's Olympic Dreams documentaries prior to Beijing 2008.

"I thought he'd win the Olympics and he didn't. I thought he'd fight at 60kg here and he hasn't. He's a different person to everyone else, you never know what he's doing.

"I'm not saying I'm not a happy man - it's easier for me. But I would like to have seen the outcome to that fight, I think Craig's an awesome fighter.

We know what the situation was like for him {Fallon] in Beijing. But I'd like to think the attraction of a home Games in London was too irresistible to pass by

British Judo's performance director Margaret Hicks

"Staying in the fight with Craig for five minutes is good enough, trying to actually beat him is different."

Fallon no longer has a world ranking or funding to his name, having left the sport in the aftermath of a disappointing performance in Beijing. A buoyant British media had tipped him to win Olympic gold in his weight category, but he lost a repechage clash for bronze to finish seventh overall.

"I'd lost motivation in the sport so I moved on, took some time out, relaxed and saw mates I hadn't hung around with for years because I'd always been in other countries," said Fallon.

"I was playing a bit of football, just doing what everyone else does.

"But I enjoy judo, fighting and coming to tournaments. I'm going to be happy to fight and if the decision is to go up to the next weight, there'll be no weight pressures, I'll be able to fight whenever I want without the dieting.

"If I can do well in the 66kg category then I'll continue and hopefully I can go to the Games."

How to win at judo

Some 90 other British competitors took to the mats inside the English Institute of Sport, though not all of Britain's top talents were on show - Euan Burton, who won a World Masters bronze medal in Azerbaijan earlier this month, was the highest-profile absentee.

British Judo's performance director, Margaret Hicks, said Fallon's return was "excellent news" for the GB team.

"We were waiting to see what his plans were and now, 18 months out from the Games, is the right time to be making a statement of intent like he has done," she told BBC Sport.

"He's had time to go away and reflect. We know what the situation was like for him in Beijing. But I'd like to think the attraction of a home Games in London was too irresistible to pass by.

"No Olympic selection is confirmed until the last qualifying event in April 2012, but this gives us a good structure to work around."

Fallon must now wait for British Judo to select its teams for forthcoming World Cup events before continuing his comeback on an international stage.


British judo trials results

MEN

60kg: 1. James Millar, 2. Gregg Varey, 3. Graham Trinder, 4. Lucas Rowe
66kg: 1. Craig Fallon, 2. Nathon Burns, 3. Sam Dunkley, 4. Marcus Bascombe
73kg: 1. Daniel Williams, 2. Jan Gosiewski, 3. Alex Farbon, 4. Lee Shinkin
81kg: 1. Thomas Davis, 2. Thomas Reed, 3. David Groom, 4. Adam Bick
90kg: 1. Matthew Purssey, 2. Andrew Burns, 3. Winston Gordon, 4. Craig Stewart
100kg: 1. James Austin, 2. Joshua Butler, 3. James Gilmore, 4. John McFetrich
+100kg: 1. Matthew Clempner, 2. Christopher Sherrington, 3. Karl Etherington, 4. Gavin McNeill

WOMEN

48kg: 1. Kelly Edwards, 2. Kimberley Renicks, 3. Freya Dechastelain
52kg: 1. Sophie Cox, 2. Samantha Clark
57kg: 1. Gemma Howell, 2. Connie Ramsay, 3. Nadia Minardi, 4. Rebecca Dunning
63kg: 1. Sarah Clark, 2. Kate Walker, 3. Faith Pitman, 4. Kerry Ford
70kg: 1. Sally Conway, 2. Gemma Gibbons, 3. Megan Fletcher, 4. Jessica Black
78kg: 1. Louise Little, 2. Fiona Jones, 3. Natalie Powell
+78kg: 1. Karina Bryant, 2. Sarah Adlington



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see also
Minho triumphs as Fallon falters
09 Aug 08 |  Judo
Judo gold once again for Fallon
18 Feb 08 |  Judo
Fallon is crowned world champion
11 Sep 05 |  Other sport...
McKenzie thankful he found judo
20 Aug 10 |  Judo
Burton and Fallon's guide to judo
23 May 08 |  Judo


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