By Mike Rowbottom

Sophie_CoxApril 21 - Colin Oates and Sophie Cox won bronze medals for Britain on the opening day of the European Judo Championships in Istanbul.

Oates, a 27-year-old from Norwich, produced a career-best display to claim his first major championship medal, a huge achievement for the -66kg judoka who has previously medalled at World Cup and European Open events.

"It's not quite sunk in yet that I've earned a bronze medal, I'm still in shock," said Oates after stepping off the medal rostrum.

Oates had a bye in the first round before convincingly seeing off Hungarian Zsolt Gorjanacz by ippon after earlier recording a yuko score.

The Norwich judoka then defeated Ukraine's Serhiy Drebot by two waza-ari scores and followed up with a yuko victory over Romania's Gheorghe Fasie.

The semi-final saw Oates lose out to Tarian Karimov of Azerbaijan which led to a bronze medal fight in the repechage.

A titanic effort from Oates saw him outwork his French opponent Pierre Duprat.

The scores were still level after golden score but Oates was awarded the decision on flags.

"In a way I think my injury [at the start of the year] helped me as I've had time to really focus on technical work and refine my style," he said.

"I'm not just happy with the way I performed and the medal itself but I was relaxed and felt really strong.

"I overpowered fighters such as the Ukranian, Serhiy Drebot – and he's a really physical judoka - which is something I haven't really managed before."

Cox (pictured above far right), 29, produced some characteristic tenacious displays as she won four of five contests en route to her fifth European Championships medal, having previously won two bronze and two silver at the event.

The Athens Olympian from Rochdale edged past Frenchwoman Priscilla Gneto in the first round before beating Albania's Majlinda Kelmendi, both by a yuko score.

Cox emphatically defeated Spaniard Ana Carrascosa as she recorded two yukos, a waza-ari and finally an ippon to book a semi-final meeting with Portugal's Joana Ramos.

In an absorbing contest Briton lost by ippon which saw her enter the repechage and a bronze medal showdown with Finland's Jaana Sundberg.

Cox ground out a hard-fought victory to avenge her 2010 GB World Cup defeat and take the final place on the medal podium.

"Every contest today was a really hard-fought battle and took all my energy," said Cox.

"It's been a long road for me since returning last year, but I was always targeting the European's and I'm really pleased to have won the bronze.

"The fact that the bronze is my fifth medal at the event makes it extra special, especially with my last being in 2005 before I took a break from the sport."

British Judo head coach Patrick Roux said: "Sophie only narrowly lost out in the semi-final while Colin also fought with a lot of effort in his."

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