The picturesque town of Largs played host to an exhilarating weekend of judo as the Scottish Open returned. Judoka hailing from various corners of the world gathered at the Inverclyde National Training Centre to put on some breathtaking displays.

The highlight of the meeting turned out to be a family affair as brothers Alex and Olly Short met in a final for the first time. It meant the men’s -73kg category had an extra air of intensity as all eyes were drawn to the siblings from Edinburgh. Olly was victorious over his older brother, though both put on an excellent display. Olly said: “It was a really hard fight, we’re brothers but also training partners. It was a bit more intense than it usually is at Randori! The Scottish Open is unique, it’s the first one back after the new year which means there are a lot of people motivated to start strong and using it to prepare for the year to come with the European and world circuits approaching.”

Alex added: “I enjoyed fighting my brother. It’s good fun, it’s just like training every day. I felt like we could open up and just go for it and put on a bit of a show. I don’t know what others thought but it felt like a good fight to watch. It was difficult but good fun. Being brothers, it gets heated quite easily. It could’ve been in the living room, could’ve been in Ratho but to do it at the Scottish Open was fun.”

Brothers Alex and Olly Short on the podium, alongside fellow Scot Aiden Moffat.

Day one had seen cadets and masters take to our five mats with competitors from Norway, the USA, Sweden and Germany providing great competition for our home nations judoka. The plethora of countries competing created an electric atmosphere in the Inverclyde Training Centre and, with tensions and nerves beginning to rise, coaches and teammates alike could be heard shouting encouragement to those on the mats. There was Scottish success from both categories with masters taking home 17 medals and cadets achieving 19.

Cadets in action.

There was also success for our English counterparts, including the Craven club from Yorkshire. Craven coach Danny Harper, who was recently named BJA coach of the year, won gold himself and was later on hand to assist eight judoka from his club. He said: “It’s a well run, professional event and personally it was good to work on some throws. I’ve got eight athletes with me, some double entries so they are getting plenty of matches. That’s why we bring them over and the fact they can go up against some top international athletes is really good.”

Danny Harper (middle) won gold in the VM2-100 category.

This praise was echoed by Olympian and current Enfield judo coach Prisca Awiti Alcaraz who said: “It’s always great to come here and compete against the best across the country. It was a good opportunity for our athletes to do a bit of learning, we have a younger group with new coaches and this is a perfect place for them to learn their trade.”

As Saturday wound down, all thoughts turned to the seniors and juniors who were gearing up to take centre stage on Sunday. And so, by 8:30am, we were ready to go again. First up were the juniors who put on some lively displays with several Scots dramatically securing gold.

Keeping an eye on all the action was our National High Performance Coach Euan Burton who said: “It’s been a fantastic event so far, we’ve had international representation from Asia, Australasia, Europe and America so it’s great for Scottish athletes to be able to compete against that level of an opponent without having to leave our sunny shores which unfortunately have not been particularly sunny this weekend! For our group, match experience is so important, particularly for our cadets and juniors, and this gives them loads of time on task, and competition. So, hopefully they can take lots from this weekend into training.”

Juniors in action.

Come 1pm the bleachers were full and the mat-side was getting busier, the seniors were about to start. Our Scottish athletes came flying out the blocks, with Josie Steele securing gold in the senior -63 category. Fellow Scottish judoka Rachel Tytler also left Largs with a gold medal after triumphing in the -78 senior category. “I’m happy with how I fought,” said the Bearsden athlete. “I had a wee chat with Euan (coach) and we were both pleased with how I was calm and collected but kept committed. Events like the Scottish Open are so important as it gives me a chance to try out the judo I’ve been practising, to improve my confidence in doing so.”

“Being closer to home is nice as my parents came down to watch as usually they’re unable to watch me overseas. I could hear my mum shouting away, which she was not allowed to do! But, it was nice having them here.”

Rachel Tytler (middle) is presented her gold medal by camp sponsor Robert Sneddon

Following the competition, our three-day camp started on Monday thanks to the sponsorship of RA Sneddon. This allowed several judoka to learn from our national coaches as well as a masterclass from double Olympic gold medalist and three-time world champion Shohei Ono.

Shohei Ono (right) takes a session alongside our assistant high performance coach, Takafumi Kitahara

The camp included 10 athletes from Chukyo University in Japan, who provided great training partners and really added value to the camp for our domestic judoka. Robert, a generous supporter of the event, shared his perspective on his continued sponsorship, stating, “I’ve sponsored it before, years ago when it was getting started, my main aim to get the Scottish Open up and running. This year I felt why not sponsor it again, the camp aspect looked great and I’m happy to be supporting it.”

Judoka at our Scottish Open Camp
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