TEAM NI: Teenage star Fleming proud of effort despite missing out on medal

England's Danny Williams who defeated Eoin Fleming en route to claiming gold
England's Danny Williams who defeated Eoin Fleming en route to claiming gold

There would be no second medal for Northern Ireland in the judo for Eoin Fleming but the 19-year-old from Belfast put in a brave display in the -73kg class – falling just short in the contest for bronze.

Inspired by Lisa Kearney’s medal winning performance 24 hours earlier the former Rathmore Grammar pupil was eventually beaten by ippon by the experienced African champion Jacques Van Zyl from South Africa.

“I came looking to see how far I could get without any real expectations,” Fleming said.

“I trusted my ability and with all the training that I put in I thought there was something here for me.

“To win my first fight settled some nerves and taking on Danny Williams from England, who went on to make the final, I gave him a good fight and was happy with how I performed despite the defeat.

“To work my way through the repechage and get to the medal fight was important. I really hoped that I was going to get the medal in the end and match Lisa’s result, but it wasn’t meant to be.”

He added:
”I didn’t execute my plan fully but this is a learning curve and hopefully I’ll be in many more big fights. I’m still young.

“I’m only 19 and am still a junior in the sport so I will learn from this. You have to get over defeats and now my aim will be to compete at another global event.”

Fleming started in the sport when he was seven years-old and was immediately taken under the wing of the Ward family.

Ciaran Ward is the Northern Ireland team manager.

“My dad did a wee bit and brought me down to a club and I stuck at it and enjoyed it.

Jimmy Ward, Ciaran’s father was my coach as a kid and when Jimmy passed away Ciaran took over and has brought through three of the players from one club who have been fighting here in the past few days.”

Fleming also divides his time between judo and Gaelic Football and plays full forward for O’Donovan Rossa.

He has exams coming up in his University course of maths and finance and will soon have to make a decision on whether he wants to focus fully on the judo and the prizes that may have to offer.

“Next year hopefully being on the Elite athlete programme at Queen’s I can push on and take it further and this won’t be the highlight of my career,” he added. “The Olympics is the hope for everyone.”

Northern Ireland’s other two judoka in action on Friday Caoimhih Thompson (-73kg) and Kristy Kee (-63kg) both lost their last 32 contests and failed to progress in the competition.