Doors opened to judo hopefuls

PUBLISHED: 11:03 27 August 2009 | UPDATED: 17:05 25 August 2010

OLYMPIC hopefuls descended on north Kent to showcase their skills as British Judo s first ever centralised training institute was unveiled.

OLYMPIC hopefuls descended on north Kent to showcase their skills as British Judo's first ever centralised training institute was unveiled.

The British Judo Association officially launched its Performance Institute at the Dartford Judo Club, in Cotton Lane, last Wednesday.

For the first time in British Olympic history, the full-time centre of excellence will bring Britain's elite judoka together to train under one roof.

It is hoped the centralised programme will allow British Judo to concentrate the resources needed to deliver medals at London 2012, with the current target set at three for both the Olympic and Paralympics teams.

Team GB head coach Patrick Roux said: "I'm sure that something incredible will happen, because if you have all of the players in one place along with all of the coaches and you concentrate on training there is an energy in the place. When there's serious training, you can feel how these things encourage people. It's amazing.

"When the team start to get the results it will grow more and more and the judo community will support that."

The Institute is housed within Dartford Judo Club, a £4.5 million, state-of-the-art facility.

Opened by Princess Anne in 2006 and built with the support of Dartford Borough Council, Kent County Council and Sport England, it boasts two full-sized mats, space for 400 spectators, a gym, social area, seminar spaces and catering facilities.

Team GB's failure to win medals at the Beijing Games last summer emphasised the need for the Institute to ensure medals are delivered in London 2012.

Three full-time coaches and a specialist strength and conditioning coach will oversee a punishing training schedule every day.

A long term plan, based around the four-year Olympic cycle, has been put in place and the coaches are hopeful Team GB will be competing for medals come 2012.

Mr Roux said: "We have three years until the Olympic Games. In this first year of the Olympic cycle we review everything and we have put in a new structure.

"Some of the players are still young, they are still learning and it's difficult for them because they are coming from a club environment. Here we are training twice or sometimes three times a day and it is difficult to get used to that.

"It's improving quite well but it's still early, but I'm confident we will be challenging for medals in 2012."

Among those hoping to be in medal contention in 2012 is 27-year-old Paralympian Ben Quilter, of Cugley Road, Dartford.

He said: "The facilities here are fantastic. The training is going really well. We have just had the Europeans a couple of months ago and I got the silver there.

"My target after I didn't get selected to go to Athens was to get in the top five in Beijing and I was fifth. My goal now is to make the finals in London. If I make it, a medal will just be one fight away.

"Just to compete in London on front of a massive audience on a home stage would be amazing and a medal would just be a bonus."

Also training at the centre is the Under 20s British Champion, Francesca Steggall, 19, of Marlborough Park, Sidcup.

"This is one of the best environments you can be in to get to 2012.

"It's all happening at the institute."

In March, the centre was named as one of 31 potential Pre-Games Training Camps in Kent and Mr Roux is optimistic it will be officially chosen later in the year.

He said: "The fact that Dartford is now the national centre for British Judo will have an amazing impact on a lot of people."

l For more information on evening Judo, yoga and fitness classes, call the centre on 01322 222 071 or visit www.dartfordjudo

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