WILL ROBERTS BE BRITISH'S LAST JUDO CHAMPION?
January 12, 2005
Under the plans, judo's core funding from UK Sport for its Olympic performance programme will drop by 86 per cent from £687,000 to £97,000 and the budget cuts will also effect gymnastics, triathlon and shooting.Roberts says Kelly Holmes' double gold medal triumph, the surprise victory of the 4 x 100 men's relay, and swimming, which managed two bronzes, will end up receiving the most funding and judo, along with other minority sports, will carry the can for their successes in Greece."Judo will be hit hard," explained Roberts. "It will give athletes the incentive to get better results but the criteria of counting Olympics results and not taking into
consideration performances in World and European championships for funding is a problem.
"It's very harsh to measure a sport's success on just the Olympics.When it comes to the Olympics you only had to see the media coverage of
athletics with Kelly Holmes becoming a national hero to see where UK Sport are coming from.
"They are driving towards sports that are successful where supporters feel arenas.
"What is interesting is the Government gave UK Sport a target of getting Britain a top 10 finish and, had the relay team not beaten the Americans by 0.01 seconds, we would have not finished in that position so what would have happened then?"
The 28-year-old said that Craig Fallon, widely tipped to win a medal in Athens, been successful, it would have been "huge" for judo.Fallon finished outside the standings after a disappointing performance while Finchampstead-based Georgina Singleton (seventh) and Winston Gordon (fifth) failed to get amongst
the medals.Roberts said: "There was a lot of pressure on Craig to perform but he gave 100 per cent and people forget he won silver at the Worlds in 2003 which is a more impressive result than what can arguably be achieved at the Olympics.If funding is cut it will effect what the governing bodies such as British Judo can offer athletes including high profile coaching, physiotherapy, strength and conditioning programmes and other services.Minority sports are always in the shadow of football but are not adverse to changes.Preferably they would like to be as professional as possible but if funding was cut athletes would still push themselves and probably get more self-satisfaction when they are successful.They can turn around to UK Sport and say ‘we can do it anyway'.But it's important to realise that there is a consultation process between UK Sport and the governing bodies until next year and some of what has been said and reported has been misunderstood.All the judo junior and cadet programmes, run by Sport England, will continue and it's only the top level of the pyramid — the senior level — that the funding issue will effect."Roberts, who chairs the World Class working group on the British Athletes' Commission, which helps British players and athletes speak with a single voice and be involved in decision making, says the danger is performance directors of sports could start griping at each other claiming their sport is of more than importance than another.Archery came under criticism at the end of 2004 for a proposed annual increase of 362 per cent from £42,000 to £194,000 after Alison Williamson's bronze medal in Athens.And the problems do not stop there. Judo's chief executive Scott McCarthy says if funding is cut to £97,000 as the model suggests, there will only be enough money to have two athletes competing at Beijing 2008.But there will be no professional staff, no coaches and no competition money.Singleton has made it clear she has one more Olympics in her and does not want to retire until after Beijing."It would be a difficult position for British Judo to be in because as Georgina and Winston finished highest in Athens should they be the athletes that get the nod for Beijing?" said Roberts."If that's the only way then surely it's those two who should go which would rule out Craig Fallon.Georgina has every right to be at the Olympics,She is more than capable of walking away with a medal and has a lot to prove in Beijing in 2008.It will be a case of British Judo making the best of a bad situation and everyone needs to support these decisions otherwise the sport will begin to fall apart at the seams.Everyone needs to pull together."Roberts was on top of the world in 1999 after winning bronze at the Judo World Championships in Birmingham — qualifying for her first Olympics.But after failing to make an impression at the Games in Sydney 2000, Roberts took a break from studying for her PHD in liquid metals at West London's Brunel University, in West London, and trained full-time preparing for Athens.But the black-belt, who started judo at the age of eight under the tuteledge of coach Don Werner at Pinewood Judo Club in Crowthorne, missed out on the top five qualifying spots in the World Championship in 2003 and failed to get through the back door via Europe.Roberts returned to Brunel in September where she works in the research centre as an assistant director and remains focused on completing her vocation.
And she admits that her Olympics days are probably over.Roberts, who is the process of moving house from Wokingham to Bracknell said: "Judo was a part of my life for so long that I felt it was time to change my priorities.
"Will I compete in the future? That's the big question.At the moment I'm driving myself to finishing my PHD which, in a way is like training, you have to be very self-
motivated.It was hugely disappointing not to have competed in Athens but after the Worlds my sister Kelly's best friend Mandy Costello was badly injured in a judo bout that resulted in her having a blood clot in the neck which could have been fatal.It eased the blow for me and I realised that it was not the end of the world.
"You only have to look at what happened in Asia on Boxing Day to realise that.
"Sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture."UK Sport's budget cuts will not be introduced until March 2006.