DOB - 18 December 1982
COUNTRY - Great Britain
Weight - U60kg
Cairo 2005 Gold
Osaka 2003 Silver
Tampere 2006 Gold
Dusseldorf 2003 Silver
Fighting Films World Cup 2007 Gold
Paris Super World Cup 2005 - Bronze
Prague 'A' Tournament 2004 - Gold
Rome 'A' Tournament 2003 - Gold
Paris Super 'A' Tournament 2003 - Gold
Commonwealth Games 2002 - Gold
German Open 2002 - Bronze
British Youth Clsed2 - Gold
Craig Fallon is the most successful British male judoka since Neil Adams, joining him as one of only two Briton’s to have concurrently held both World and European Titles. He is renowned for his exciting, attacking judo, and his ability to escape from dangerous situations. His favoured techniques span a wide spectrum, including drop Seoi-toshi, drop Kata-guruma, Tomoe-nage, numerous leg grabs and some incredibly effective Osaekomi-waza.
After an impressive record at junior level, Craig Fallon first shot to prominence at senior level when he won the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester. In doing so he beat the world bronze medallist John Buchanan en route to the final where he dispatched India’s Akram Shah to take gold. However, this was just a taste of things to come the following year.
In early 2003, Fallon became only the second man in British judo history to win the prestigious Tournoi de Paris- an incredibly tough title to win, and one which all judokas aspire to add to their medal collection. He was impressive in his early round fights, but it was his performance in the final which really made the judo world sit up and take notice. Early in the fight his Korean opponent had him up in the air with a strong Uchimata attack. Fallon, demonstrating a skill which would lead him to become known as the ‘Harry Houdini of judo’, managed to get his head to the mat and spin out of the attack to land unfazed on his feet. This set the tone for an incredibly exciting final, which Fallon finally managed to edge in his favour.
After taking gold in Paris, Fallon went into the 2003 European championships in Dusseldorf, Germany, as a marked man. However, he took his first senior European Championship in his stride, despite a tough draw. In the first round, he faced one of his main rivals at European level, Austria’s Ludwig Paischer. Paischer was looking to avenge two previous defeats earlier that year but was unable to match Fallon who scored waza-ari with Osoto-gari to ease past his Austrian counterpart. His next fights saw him past Spain’s Kenji Uematsu and Sergei Morokhovets of the Ukraine, before he faced Armenia’s Armen Nazaryan in the semi-final. Nazaryan proved to be a difficult opponent for Fallon, who was on the back foot for most of the fight. Then, a yuko down with seconds on the clock, Fallon struck. He whipped under his opponent with one last ditch Tomoe-nage attack, Nazryan’s back struck the mat as the clock struck zero, Fallon was through to the final. There, the strength and experience of Georgia’s Nestor Khergiani proved too much for Fallon, who lost on a yuko.
So far 2003 had been a good year, but it was not over yet. Fallon still had the World Championships, in Osaka, Japan, to contend. In the second round, Fallon demonstrated his instinctive judo brain by countering the tough Belarussian, Siarhei Novikau, with a blistering Uchimata as he rushed forward. In the next round he dispatched Nom Chol Pak, of North Korea, with a lighting fast ko-uchi into a leg grab to score koka. That took him into the quarter-final where he faced the silver medallist from the previous World Championships, Belgium’s Cedric Taymans. Fallon was able to ease past his opponent, scoring Waza-ari with harai-makikomi. In the semi he met the impressive German, Oliver Gussenberg. It was the German who struck first, countering Fallon for a waza-ari. Fallon dug deep and eventually levelled things with a superb drop Seoi-otoshi. In the end it was the numerous penalties the German had conceded fighting off the busy Fallon that decided the contest and sent Fallon through to the final to face Korea’s Min Ho Choi. However, in the final he was out classed by the Korean. Fallon’s escaping tricks were on show again to avoid a number of strong attacks, but in the end the Korean managed to score ippon with a fast Ko-soto-gari. Still, it cannot be denied that 2003 marked the arrival of Fallon as one of the best fighters at under 60kg in the world.
Having won silver in Osaka, Fallon had automatically qualified his place for the Olympic Games in Athens and now attention turned to how he would fare there. Fallon was highly favoured to bring home an Olympic medal, especially given the form he’d been in the previous year, and many thought it could be gold. However, he suffered a major upset as he crashed out in the preliminary rounds against Greece’s Zintiridis.
Despite the disappointment in Athens, Fallon’s greatest achievement came the following year in 2005 when he won World Championship gold in Cairo. Having lost in the final of the previous Worlds, all eyes were on Fallon to see if he could go one better. If everyone else felt expectant, the pressure didn’t get to Fallon himself. He says of his mental state going into Cairo that ‘I was more relaxed than I had been in any other competition. I was just thinking: I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do.’
This relaxed attitude manifested itself in some smooth and effortless judo in the opening rounds. First, he obliterated Mexico’s Arturo Ceniceros, dropping underneath his opponent for a drop Seoi ippon. In the next round he made short work of Gal Yekutiel, throwing the Israeli for yuko with a drop Kata-guruma, and then for ippon with a superb Tomoe-nage.
In the quarter final, Fallon faced the man who had beaten him earlier in the year at the Tournoi de Paris, Japan’s Tatsuaki Egusa. But this time Fallon was prepared. He knew from his experience in Paris that Egusa would attack using his favoured Yoko-gake leg grab. ‘He knew I was going to step forward and then he could come in with the Laats but this time I didn’t come forward so much and just waited for him to drop’. And when he did drop Fallon had a trick up his sleeve. Using a turn over that his coach, Fitzroy Davis, had brought back from Japan, and that he had worked on tirelessly to perfect, he turned Egusa almost effortlessly into Osaekomi. Egusa struggled wildly but was unable to break Fallon's vice-like hold.
In the semi-final Fallon faced an unknown opponent in Kazakhstan’s Salamat Utarbayev. This turned out to be the toughest test for Fallon who ended up settling for a koka win against the awkward Kazakh. However, they all count and Fallon was through to face his old rival Paischer in his second World Championship final.
The final against Paischer ended up being settled early. Fallon attacked using a Koshi-guruma come Tai-otoshi and scored yuko. This seemed like a taste of what was to come but ended up being the deciding score, thanks partly to Paischer’s one dimensional judo and Fallon’s superb defensive skills. Time after the time Austrian attacked with Sumi-gaeshi and time after time Fallon spun to avoid the attack. The Austrian fought valiantly but never quite had the right tactical approach and in the end Fallon was crowned World Champion.
Having won gold in Cairo, Fallon now found himself going into the European championships, in Finland, as favourite. If he could take gold he would become the second most successful British male judoka, and the first since Neil Adams to hold both World and European titles at the same time. If the pressure was on then Fallon showed little sign that it was effecting him, as he beat all preliminary opponents with little problem. In the semi-final he faced Khergiani, a rematch of the final 3 years earlier. This time Fallon completely out gripped his opponent who was unable to muster any meaningful attacks. Fallon, on the other hand, timed his moment to perfection, moving Khergiani to the edge of the tatami before swiftly dropping underneath for a Seoi-otoshi waza-ari. It was enough to take him through to the final.
There, he faced Armenia’s Armen Nazaryan again, and it turned out to be just as tense as their previous encounter. Fallon has always been an escape artist, having the almost uncanny ability to twist and contort his body to escape from dangerous situations, against Nazaryan he once again had to put this ability to full use. After only 30 seconds of the contest, an attack from Fallon resulted in him being pinned by the Armenian. Within seconds Fallon had twisted out, but in doing so he left his arm open for Nazaryan to attack, the Armenian obliged and Fallon was now in trouble. He attempted to stand up but his opponent threw himself backwards, applying more and more pressure to the elbow joint. The armlock was now on but Fallon spun into Nazaryan at speed and onto his front, the Armenian still had the arm but the pressure was relieved just enough for Fallon to ride out the attack until the referee called matte.
Fallon’s first major score followed soon after. With just over a minute and a half gone Nazaryan attempted a pick up attack, Fallon skilfully hooked his leg in between his opponent’s and countered him with a one armed Uchimata-makikomi for waza-ari. The remainder of the fight had Nazaryan chasing and attacking, with Fallon using his cat-like agility to avoid conceding a score. However, with a minute to go Fallon came forward with a single leg grab and was countered for yuko with an almost identical technique to that which he had scored with earlier in the fight- a one armed Uchimata-makikomi. This galvanised the Armenian who throw everything at his opponent. Then with seconds left on the clock Nazaryan came rushing forward only to be countered backwards for a scrappy looking second waza-ari. The European title was Fallon’s.
The following year Fallon got the chance to fight in front of his home crowd at the 2007 Fighting films GB World cup in Birmingham. He did not disappoint his fans putting on an awe inspiring display of judo. He demolished all comers en route to taking the gold medal, winning every fight by ippon- all but one of which coming from Osaekomi.
After a another disappointing Olympic Games in Beijing, in which he was on the wrong end of some debatable decisions against his old rival Ludwig Paischer before losing in the repechage to Israel’s Gal Yekutiel, Fallon is back in training and hoping to represent Britain again at the 2012 Olympics. He is also considering a move up to fight at under 66kg. Only time will tell if this incredible fighter will be able to make the transition and take the Olympic medal his talent so desperately merits.
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