By Mike Rowbottom

GB_judoMarch 10 - Judo became the latest British sport to receive a definite invitation to next year's Olympics when was confirmed there will be Host Nation Qualification places for seven male and seven female judo players.

Weightlifting, handball, volleyball and table tennis have all been awarded Olympic places on a similar basis, and the British Olympic Association (BOA) - which has an official "inclusive" policy for London 2012 – has also offered basketball a place which will be ruled upon this weekend by the sport's world governing body, Fiba.

"I am delighted that 14 British judokas will have the opportunity to compete at London 2012," said the BOA's chief executive Andy Hunt.

"The athletes will now be able to focus on meeting their selection criteria and preparing themselves for competing in front of an enthusiastic home crowd in London.

"I'm confident that our judokas will grasp this special opportunity to inspire future generations of judo players across the UK.

"British judo has contributed consistently to Team GB in past Olympics, with Sydney 2000 silver medallist Kate Howey performing Team GB Flag Bearer duties at Athens 2004.

"In Beijing four years ago, Team GB included seven judokas and we are hopeful that the Olympic experience gained by the likes of current world bronze medallist Euan Burton will stand them in good stead for success in London."

Sir Clive Woodward, the BOA director of sport, added: "Judo is a fast and fascinating sport, played by over 250,000 people in more than 1,000 affiliated clubs in the UK and I believe the players fighting to represent Team GB have a great opportunity to make an impact in London 2012.

"There are exciting young prospects being developed in British judo and it was great to see European under-23 Champion Ashley McKenzie - a 21-year-old Londoner - win his first senior World Cup last month in Warsaw.

"We believe that participating in London 2012 will give judo in the UK a huge boost and create a platform for future success in Rio 2016 and beyond."

Kate_Howey_with_silver_medal_Sydney_2000Britain has won a total of eight silver and eight bronze medals, with the most recent success coming from the Sydney Olympics in 2000 where Kate Howey (pictured) won a silver.

British Judo Association Chairman Densign White said: "I am grateful for the support from the BOA and the confidence they have shown in British Judo to deliver."

Margaret Hicks, the BJA performance director, said: "We are pleased with the outcome as it allows us to prepare our players with robust performance standards but also relinquish any Host Nations Qualification places, if the criteria are not fulfilled.

"The Olympic Qualification Standards agreed mean that we can be selective on which IJF qualifying events our players compete in.  This will allow our players to arrive at the Games much stronger than previously, where they would have had to enter virtually every event to gain ranking points for qualification."

Euan Burton, the two-time world bronze medallist, added: "It will be an honour for any athlete to compete in the London 2012 Olympic Games.

"As a European and world medallist I have stood on some significant medal podiums, but nothing could compare with a gold in London.

"Judo kicks off the Games during the first week and we will be aiming to make the country proud.

"I am doing everything I can to prepare myself to be in the best possible shape. I will strive to continue putting in world class performances to gain selection for Team GB."

Karina Bryant, seven times a world medallist, said: "Last year I won my 20th major medal of my career, but my dream is to win an Olympic medal.

"I am hopeful that children will be inspired to take up the sport from watching the British judo team perform.

"Judo is such an exciting and dynamic sport that anyone can try no matter their size, age, or gender, and the London 2012 Olympic Games is the perfect platform to generate a buzz around our sport."

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