British Judo have named a ten-strong team - including two players from St Helens - for the 2018 Paris Grand Slam from Saturday, February 10 to 11.
Rio 2016 bronze medallist Sally Conway (-70kg) and 2017 World Championship bronze medallists Nekoda Smythe-Davis (-57kg) and Natalie Powell (-78kg) will be the headline acts in the team in which every athlete has medalled at Grand Prix level or higher.
The Paris Grand Slam is one of the toughest competitions in the judo calendar with 1000 world ranking points for gold medallists. Qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games also starts this year in May at the Hohhot Grand Prix in China.
To date only five British judoka have won the Paris Grand Slam: Karen Briggs and Sharon Rendle in 1992; Nigel Donohue in 1993; Kate Howey in 1997 and Craig Fallon in 2003. Conway and Powell both won bronze medals at the 2016 Paris Grand Slam.
Bekky Livesey (-57kg) and Jemima Yeats-Brown (-70kg) will be making their debuts at the Paris tournament. Livesey finished seventh at last year’s European Championships while Yeats-Brown made her return to competition at the British Championships in December following ACL surgery.
St Helens duo Lucy Renshall and Amy Livesey will be aiming to back up strong 2017s which saw both of them into the WRL Top 10 at -63kg.
Renshall finished fifth at last year’s Paris tournament as well as taking home silver at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam. Livesey won a number of medals last year including bronze at the Ekaterinburg Grand Slam and she finished seventh at the World Championships in Budapest.
Experienced judoka Sarah Adlington (+78kg) and Ashley McKenzie (-60kg) will also be in action having enjoyed good results last year.
Both judoka took home five Grand Prix medals between them in 2017 with McKenzie also finishing seventh at the European Championships in Warsaw.
Philip Awiti-Alcaraz (-100kg) will be returning to Paris for the first time since 2016, when he made his debut. The Enfield judoka had an injury hit 2017 but he added a second Grand Prix medal to his collection with bronze in Cancun.
British Judo Performance Director, Nigel Donohue, said: “As we move into 2018, we can reflect on that we enjoyed a very successful 2017 across all major championships at both Junior and Senior level.
“It is critically important that we build on our success from previous years and now very much look forward to the year ahead starting with the prestigious Paris Grand Slam.
“Paris is one event that all judoka look forward to with the aim to have a medal on their career CV. This year will be no different to previous years as we expect it to be a world class field of which we feel confident that our team can compete and perform against.
“I am sure that we will put in strong performances in the first Grand Slam of 2018 as we look forward to the Olympic qualification campaign starting later in the year.”