Skelley aims high after first European gold
GB Judo’s Chris Skelley hopes his first European gold is a stepping stone en route to greatness after his victory on day two of the 2017 IBSA European Judo Championships, in Walsall.
The heavyweight, who won bronze at the 2015 European Championships, topped the podium after winning the gold-medal match against Paralympic bronze medallist Shakhban Kurbanov in the -100kg category.
Skelley had a bye into the second round, where he forced a tap out from Russia’s Anatolii Shevchenko, and the 23-year-old continued in good form all the way to the final.
“Preparation has been incredibly hard, I’ve been to Japan and Mongolia, which was a really tough training camp,” Skelley said.
“We came back for a few days then went straight back out to Germany, there’s been so much travelling and competing and I’m so pleased that it’s paid off.
“I can’t tell you what a home crowd does to you, there were a few hundred people here giving non-stop support and it was fantastic.
“It’s been a long road and we’re not there yet, but this is an important stepping stone.” Chris Skelley
Promising performances also came from Elliot Stewart, making his visually-impaired judo debut, and Jack Hodgson, who both finished fifth after reaching the bronze-medal matches.
Stewart kicked off the day for Great Britain with a tough draw against Paralympic silver medallist Oleksandr Nazarenko in the -90kg category.
The Brit earned a place in the repechage and went on to beat Germany’s Daniel Goral with an ippon and came within touching distance of a bronze medal in his final match against Turkey’s Ibrahim Bolukbasi, but was overpowered and finished fifth.
For Hodgson the day began with victory against Germany’s Tulga Demirel, a win which saw him through to the +100kg semi-final against Russia’s Gaidar Gaidarov.
Though the British judoka was initially buoyed by the roar of the crowd, he could do nothing to stop Paralympian Gaidarov taking the win to qualify for the final, with Hodgson ending the day in fifth place.