Team Scotland entered this event knowing that we hadn’t stood on the top of the podium since 2019, with all six teams determined to make history.

As the JudoScotland supporters club began to chant and their clappers echoed through the University of Wolverhampton sports hall, the Junior and Cadet boys’ and girls’ teams kicked off the event.

It began in epic fashion with a thrilling match-up against current title holders London. In an action packed contest, the boys’ team emerged victorious with a 4-3 win.

Unfortunately, the girls’ team faced tough competition and ended with a 1-4 result. However, the girls bounced back in style with a stunning 5-0 victory over the North West, with the first three bouts ending in ippon in under 30 seconds. This saw them advance safely through the pool stage and into the knockout.

The Junior Boys line up

The matches were coming thick and fast, next to the mat were the pre-cadet boys who after losing 5-2 in their first match, won 6-1 against the North West with some brilliant judo on display.

The pre-cadet boys regroup with their coach Alberto Borin.

After their opening victory, the junior boys were on an almighty high as they cruised past the West 7-0 and beat Wales 6-1, securing their place at the top of the pool and advancing into the knockout stages.

The senior men were up next, with the welcome late addition of Stuart McWatt, once again starting against London. In a hotly contested match, which included some crucial referee decisions, they narrowly lost 3-2, showcasing impressive throws throughout. However, they quickly bounced back with an impressive 4-1 victory over the North and another 4-1 win against the Midlands, achieving numerous ippons along the way.

The pre-cadet girls introduced themselves to the championships in style – three 4-1 victories against the South, Wales and the Midlands area saw them through the semis, finishing the tournament with a bronze after losing out to the North West 3-2 in a nail biting affair.

The pre-cadet girls make their way to the mat,

The pre-cadets’ match against the West provided one of the highlights of the day. A decisive ippon from Kieran Carson secured a thrilling 4-3 victory for the Scots, propelling them into the semi-finals. There, they came agonisingly close to repeating the scoreline but fell just short, losing to the South.

Unfortunately for the senior women, a depleted squad saw them exit in the group stages, despite their utmost effort and some members of the team moving up categories to eek out a win. 

The senior men faced an uphill battle for the rest of the competition, starting each match 1-0 down. Despite this, they showcased impressive ippons and techniques throughout. They narrowly missed out in the semi-final, losing 3-2 to the eventual winners, the South.

The senior men line up for the semi final.

So with three semi-final defeats, all hopes of dispelling the 2019 blues rested on the young shoulders of the cadet/junior boys. Before they could envision the final, they had to overcome the North West. Our young Scots showed no sign of nerves as they rose to the occasion, securing a commanding 6-1 victory and booking their spot in the final, where they would face London once more.

As the semifinals concluded across the mats, one final match remained in focus: the junior/cadet final. As with every previous match, Coen Gilbert led the charge in the -50 category, the sportif youngster remained calm and composed, eventually winning by Ippon with just 23 seconds left on the timer.

Next up, Joe Buchanan, whose dad John had won the same competition 10 years to the very day. Took to the mat in style and won by a beautiful Ashi Waza to double Scotland’s lead.

Joe Buchanan celebrates.

The entire Scottish contingent, including every team member, staff, and parents, cheered loudly as Vasily Menshykov stepped up next. Unfortunately, despite leading with wazari for the majority of the match, he was ultimately defeated by ippon.

Sol Savoury stepped onto the mat with a calm confidence, fully aware that a defeat would level the scores at 2-2. His performance betrayed no hint of doubt. With an unwavering focus on his opponent, he swiftly secured victory via ippon, restoring Scotland’s lead by two points.

Sal Savoury savours the moment.

With the score now 3-1 and only three contests remaining, Eden Heffernan stepped onto the mat knowing that a victory would secure the win for Scotland. The tension was palpable as everyone watched with bated breath, especially as the match headed into golden score. This was Eden’s second bout against his opponent, having lost to him in the group stages.

Eden Heffernan bows pre fight.

Eden’s determination to correct his earlier loss was evident as he executed a flawless Uchi mata, clinching the trophy for Scotland. The hall erupted in cheers as soon as the throw was complete— the young Scots secured gold.

Arad Rad and Kevin Gordon were still to fight though came off second best to two top opponents.

Eden seals victory for Scotland.

In a day filled with remarkable displays of judo and intense rivalry, the Scottish contingent delivered an unforgettable performance. From the last gasp victories to the moments of resilience and pure determination, each judoka showcased their commitment to their craft and country.

Saturday culminated in the junior boys standing proudly atop the podium, creating their own piece of Scottish judo history.