London 2012: It all ends in tears for judo hope Gemma Howell as she is controversially disqualified
- British hope pulled up for grabbing her opponent's leg with 30 seconds of first round bout remaining
- Howell had held her own against World and European champion Gevrise Emane of France
- Rules had been changed since the last Olympics
- Disappointment too for Euan Burton in the men's 81kg competition
By Adam Shergold
PUBLISHED: 09:04 EST, 31 July 2012 | UPDATED: 09:16 EST, 31 July 2012
The Olympic dreams of British judoka Gemma Howell ended in tears and heartbreak today as she was controversially disqualified from her first round bout.
There were boos from the partisan home crowd at the ExCeL Centre when Howell picked up a passivity penalty with two minutes remaining of her clash with reigning world and European champion Gevrise Emane of France.
But things got worse when, with only 30 seconds to go, the fighters fell to the ground and video referees ruled that Howell had illegally grabbed her opponent's leg - meaning an automatic disqualification.
Direct attacks to the legs have been outlawed under new rule changes introduced since the last Olympics.
Head in hands: Gemma Howell reacts with despair after her disqualification
Marching orders: An official breaks the bad news to Howell after video referees reviewed a tussle on the ground. They adjudged that Howell had grabbed the leg of her French opponent Gevrise Emane
Howell, one of Sportsmail's Magnificent Seven, had taken the fight to her opponent during the early stages at the start of her under-63kg category bout, roared on by the home crowd.
But the 22-year-old from Wolverhampton could have no complaints about the ruling.
She said: 'I think it was the right decision. I was down a penalty towards the end of the fight and knew she was ahead on attacks, so I had nothing to lose.
'I felt it was a situation which a few years ago would have been fine, but it is not allowed any more. I went for it and I shouldn't have.'
Howell and Emane grapple on the floor with 30 seconds remaining in their first round bout at the ExCeL Centre
Howell clearly has a hold of her opponent's foot as they try to score the winning points
Too late, Howell realises that she's committed a foul and is likely to be disqualified
Howell, who trains at the British Judo Performance Institute in Dartford, Kent, battled through injury in order to reach the Games and her bout with Emane represented a big step up in class.
Nine months ago, she suffered anterior cruciate ligament knee injury which put her Olympics participation in severe doubt. She only resumed full training in March after surgery and months of rehabilitation, making the British team in June.
An official has the task of delivering the bad news to the home favourite after a referral to a video official
Despite facing the second seed, Howell had taken the fight to her opponent in the early stages, encouraged by a large and partisan crowd
Howell bows out of the 2012 Olympics, but said she was already thinking about the next Games in Rio
She added: 'Maybe when I go home and look at it again I can be positive, but right now I am completely gutted.
'I didn't come here to fight hard, I came here to win it, so I didn't do what I wanted to.
'It's what makes being an Olympic champion in judo so special - that you do only get that one chance every four years.
'Rio will be the next big thing for me now, but I will just have to wait for that.'
Elsewhere, Euan Burton offered no excuses after seeing his hopes of judo gold shattered with defeat to Canadian Antoine Valois-Fortier in the men's under-81kg.
Burton, 33, had once been ranked as high as fourth in his weight division, but last year struggled to make an impact at either the European or World Championships.
Great Britain's Euan Burton (in blue) was defeated by Canada's Antonie Valois-Fortier in the men's 81kg category today
Valois-Fortier was not the expected opposition for the Scotsman, after knocking out Elnur Mammadli of Azerbaijan, the reigning European champion who won Olympic gold at under-73kg in Beijing.
However, the Canadian again produced the goods, this time with an ippon throw to end Burton's Olympic dream before it had the chance to get going.
'I lost in the biggest tournament in the world, the biggest Britain is ever going to see in my lifetime, I don't really know what else to say, but that is judo, people can get caught,' said Burton, who also failed to reach the medal fights at the 2008 Olympics where he was mentored by Sir Clive Woodward.
'I have caught people quickly in the past, and people have caught me quickly before. The fight was pretty even up to that point, but I felt I was going to be able to dominate the fight. I did not feel any particular threat until then, but it was a beautiful bit of judo.'
Valois-Fortier (right), who had defeated the reigning European champion in the first round, won the bout by Ippon
Burton felt he was in top condition to deliver.
'I felt fantastic, my preparation probably could not have gone any better, that is the most disappointing thing,' he said.
'If I had poor preparation, things had not gone well, then you can use all of the excuses, but there are no excuses.
'I came in feeling one million percent that I could win the tournament and that I was in the best shape of my life.
'If you are in the best shape of your life and you go out in the first round, then maybe that is telling you something.'
Elsewhere on the fourth day of the Olympics in London, Britain picked up their fourth medal with silver in the equestrian three-day eventing.
The British quintet, which includes the Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips, finished second behind Germany.
Tina Cook entered the final showjumping round knowing a run consisting of less than seven points would earn Team GB silver and she responded with just one time penalty to the delight of the home crowd.
Their brave gold medal challenge ultimately came up short as European champions and Olympic title favourites Germany took gold, with New Zealand clinching bronze.
Highlights later in the day include the women's 10m synchronised diving final, the women's team gymnastics final and the women's football match at Wembley between GB and Brazil.