Monday, January 4, 2010

Burton adds mat finish to Olympic quest; Judo.(Sport).

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Edinburgh's Euan Burton carries hope of a gold medal into judo's world championships in Rio, but his sights remain fixed on Beijing

SCOTLAND and the Edinburgh Club dominate the British judo team that flew to Rio last Friday ahead of next week's world championships. Six of the 13-strong Team GB are based in the capital and five operate out of an old church hall in Leith, among them the man of the hour, Euan Burton. Billy Cusack's club has lured some of the best players from England but its latest success story is of the 'local boy comes good' variety.

Burton has been training at the club since he was 14 and now, at 28, lives a walk away from this well-disguised centre of excellence. He competes at 81kg and is No1 in Europe in that category, courtesy of a bronze medal at the European championships and victory in a Super World Cup event in Moscow. He left for Brazil with a target on his back as one of the contenders for gold.

There is another race on in Rio. A top-five finish at the world championships brings automatic qualification for the Olympics and that, and not a medal, will be the primary aim of most competitors in Brazil. Not Burton, though. The top nine in the European rankings also make it to Beijing and such has been his success in this breakthrough year, he admits it would take a "freakish set of results" to deny him this route to the Games. It hasn't always been like this.

At the age of 20, Burton chucked a degree course in business studies at Edinburgh University to focus on judo. "I'm not an incredible natural athlete," he says, "and the stage I was at, I knew how much work I had to do to get past the guys in front of me. I couldn't do both. It was all or nothing." There were times when he thought nothing looked like winning. "Any time you go on a roll of bad results you question whether it's ever going to come and that's when you need good people around you. Billy has always been straight with me. He said, 'I wouldn't tell you that you could make it if I didn't think you could make it'."

Four years after he tossed the books, Burton had a shot at emulating his coach and making the British Olympic team. Going into the last qualification event, the 2004 European championships, he needed to medal for a place at Athens. He lost his semi-final, and his bronze medal match ended in a tie. In sudden death 'golden score' he lost to the smallest possible score, suddenly so significant. It denied him a first European medal and a trip to the Games. Devastated, he took a trip to Japan to train at a Tokyo high school where nobody spoke English or cared that he wasn't in Greece.

Around then he was sharing a flat in Leith with David Somerville, the 2002 Commonwealth Games silver medallist, now assistant coach at the Edinburgh Club.

They were talking about Burton's game and how he could use his size and shape against the smaller players in the 81kg division. Somerville suggested he check out tapes of the 1996 Olympic champion, Djamel Bouras of France. "He's similar - quite tall for the weight and he's not a phenomenal natural athlete, none of his judo looks particularly explosive," explains Burton. "I developed a technique that was similar, and that is now the standing technique that I score most with. It's not an orthodox judo technique and it doesn't look beautiful, but it works for me.

Until you have something that works for you it's hard to make a breakthrough. Look at the best in judo -they might be great all-rounders, but they are usually phenomenal in one thing."

Burton began to add to his game and his physique and in 2005 won the European bronze that eluded him 12 months previously. This year he repeated that success and followed up by beating Olympic and European champions at one of the three annual Super World Cup events. "It was a massive result for two reasons. The qualifying points were so much higher than for a normal World Cup event. A gold at the European championships gets you 100 points, a gold in Moscow got me 90. And it's massive because I've had a European bronze before and it's great, but it's a bronze. The difference between medalling and winning at the Olympics is huge. To get a medal would be fantastic, to win it is what you have always dreamed of. I knew I could medal in big events, but to win is another barrier to get over. Now I know that I can put seven matches together on the same day and win them all."

With his participation all but assured, Beijing is never far from Burton's mind.

After his victory in Moscow, he stepped up to the 91kg class at the German Open, wary of his heightened profile among his rivals. "I didn't want to give them another fight," he says. "You can watch as much video as you want, it doesn't tell you as much as when they get their hands on you, feeling what you do."

Copyright (C) The Sunday Times, 2007


Burton: breakthrough in Moscow

Source Citation
"Burton adds mat finish to Olympic quest; Judo." Sunday Times [London, England] 9 Sept. 2007: 29. Academic OneFile. Web. 4 Jan. 2010. .

Gale Document Number:CJ168715682

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