Chichester student has high hopes of judo gold at Paralympics

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THE UNIVERSITY of Chichester has seen plenty of Olympians and Paralympians pass through the campus over the years – but when it comes to a current student going for gold at the London Paralympics, there is more reason than normal to get excited.

And that means there will be plenty of Ben Quilter’s staff and fellow students from the university who will be stopping in their tracks a week today to see whether the 30-year-old reigning judo world champion can make the top of the podium.

Quilter, who is set to graduate from Chichester later this year with a masters in sport and exercise physiology, is one of five hopefuls in the Team GB Paralympic judo team.

The Paralympics version of the sport is the same as that seen in the Olympics but for competitors who are partially sighted. And Quilter is GB’s most genuine medal hope as they gear up for their big day of competition in the ExCel Centre where the Olympics judo was also held.

Quilter said: “Training’s going very well. A lot of the hard work’s done now although it’s always pretty intensive. The team have been training for four to six hours a day.

“We go into the Olympic village on Monday and the whole judo competition takes place on Thursday.

“I’m seeded No1 because I’m effectively unbeaten since 2009. I suppose that does put the pressure on, but the pressure is on at every tournament anyway.”

Quilter, who is from Brighton but is now living in Dartford, fights in the-60kg category. At the Beijing Paralympics in 2008 he was fifth - but since then his career has really taken off.

He won European silver in 2009 and followed it with golds at the 2010 world championships, the 2011 world games and the 2011 Europeans. He has also won plenty of other international events.

“When I was fifth in Beijing I certainly didn’t realise how things would work out. It’s been phenomenal. I think having a happy and stable life helps.”

Quilter can’t wait to perform in front of the home crowd. He went to watch the judo at ExCel and says if the GB support is anything like as fervent for the Paralympians, it will be a huge boost for the home team members.

So, can Quilter win gold? “My goal is to perform well – to win a medal. If I do perform well, the gold is possible. But every judo tournament is different - it’s hard to predict,” he said.

Quilter praised the support he had received from the university.

“Everyone’s been really supportive. A lot of the lecturers in the sport department are involved in elite sport so it has been great having that expertise close by,” he added.

“They’ve been very fair to me in allowing me time to concentrate on my judo.”