Competition success wasn’t immediate for the club, although players were competing from day 1 – Simon Brown was a regular early competitor.
The first medal came from Brett Caswell, winning the 1997 Hampshire Closed Orange & Under tournament. This was also his first competition!
Brett followed this with a medal at the 1998 Southern Area Open, and qualification for the Southern Area squad at the end of the same year.
His main club competition came from Chris Batchelor, who took his first medal in 1998. The two became regular training and competition partners. Chris’ younger brother Tim also followed on the mat, before following a successful hockey career.
Success rapidly followed for the girls, with Kate Borland claiming a podium place. Brett’s younger sister Tiffany later became a fierce competitor for the club, including competing at the Kent and London Internationals.
1997 World Champion Kate Howey MBE visited in 1999, in the run up to the World Championships held in Birmingham. On the back of attending the 1999 Kendal Summer Camp and some crafty initiative, Brett blagged himself a volunteer role at the World Championships, meeting judo greats such as Ryoko Tamura.
At the end of the year, Brett secured a top two placing on the Southern Area squad, which gave him entry to that year’s National Championships. A bronze medal here meant a place on the Great Britain cadet squad, with his first overseas competition (and a fifth place) coming soon after.