John Goodbody on a dedicated woman who looks ready to scale new heights for Britain at the world judo championships in Canada
Travelling with the British women's judo team is rather like an outing with the girls of St Trinian's. There is the same bedlam of noise, the japes you never quite know what they will try to slip into your luggage just before going through customs and, above all, the communal belief in their indestructability.
In the trail of rampaging success over the last decade, the squad has won title after title, medal after medal. There have been women like Karen Briggs, who once dislocated a shoulder during a fight, replaced it herself and resumed holding down an opponent. It is little wonder that John Godber wrote a play, Blood Sweat and Tears, to commemorate her efforts.
At the 1992 Olympic Games, three of the seven British women took medals. It is one of the more remarkable stories in sport and it should be sustained at the world championships, which have attracted 79 competing nations, here in Hamilton.
The lightweight silver medal winner in Barcelona was Nicola Fairbrother, 23, who cried when she lost the final to Miriam Blasco, of Spain. She still believes that the referee did not realise, in the inferno of noise made by the home crowd, that she was about to strangle Blasco to submission and instead he ordered a break in the contest.
Blasco is now likely to be fighting as a light-middleweight here and Fairbrother has the temperament and sufficient training to win, even in the hurly-burly struggle of these championships.
Fairbrother is a typical product of the British squad, someone who learnt from fighters like Briggs and other Olympic medal-winners like Sharon Rendle and Diane Bell, both of whom are also fighting here. ``When you're with people like that, there's a definite spark in the air,'' she said.
``At first, I used to get thrown quite a bit but the rest of the team used to give me advice, too. One day, I just decided I wanted to do the throwing rather than always being on the receiving end. You know if you do well at squad training in Britain it is never going to be tougher.'' Until after Barcelona, the squad was run by Roy Inman but he was controversially removed after allegations, which he denies, that he had submitted false expenses. The industrial tribunal hearing is still continuing. It is a credit to Inman's preparation, his successors, Neil Adams and Mark Earle, and the resilience of the girls themselves that the successes have continued.
Fairbrother retained her European title in May when four other Britons took medals and she now believes she is mentally stronger than in Barcelona. ``I suffered from nerves coming up to the Games,'' she said. She is probably stronger physically, too, capable of 56 consecutive press-ups and a stamina at running that impresses many men. She fights in the under-56 kilo class tomorrow, where the challenge is formidable.
Fairbrother was originally a gymnast her mother, Lin, is an international coach but after breaking her arm falling off a beam at the age of eight, decided to concentrate on judo. She was encouraged by Don Werner, of the Pinewood Club, near Sandhurst, Berkshire, where she lives.
She now has a squad of helpers led by her family and including a masseuse, Kathy Robinson, a weights training coach in Keith Morgans and a fitness adviser in Richard Ward, at the Berkshire Health and Rackets Club, and a sponsor, Fourdale Export Services.
Fairbrother often trains three times a day, working on technique, strength and stamina.
Jane Bridge, Britain's first world champion, says: ``Nik wants to learn. She is asking questions all the time.'' Adams agrees. ``She realises she can improve. She does not think she has reached her best.
``After an Olympic Games, when you win a medal, you tend to feel as though you are on a different plane. When you come down, you have to knuckle down and want something a bit better.''
The only thing better now is the world or Olympic title. She may get the former tomorrow.
Copyright (C) The Times, 1993
"World title lies within Fairbrother's grasp; Judo." Times [London, England] 1 Oct. 1993: 42. Academic OneFile. Web. 7 Nov. 2009.
Gale Document Number:CJ115917907
United States Judo Association - USJA
(Album / Profile) hhref="http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=10023&id=1661531726&l=792eaa11b1">http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=10023&id=1661531726&l=792eaa11b1