Irlam judo club

Irlam and Cadishead Judo Academy co-founder Ben Quilter is hoping the club can welcome back members again in the new year.

The academy was setup by Ben (right), a Paralympic bronze-medallist and former World and European champion in the sport, alongside his partner and former British judo champion Francesca (centre) back in June 2019, but it’s one of many local sports clubs that has been affected by the outbreak of Covid-19 in recent months.

It’s meant that the pair have been unable to host their weekly judo sessions properly, held every Wednesday at the Irlam and Cadishead Academy, since March.

“It’s been a real shame”, says Ben, particularly as the club had just started to gain real momentum after being set up less than 12 months earlier.

He said: “It’s been very odd not being able to do judo.

“We didn’t get going until summer of last year so we had a good three-month run into Christmas, three months at the start of 2020 and then it’s kind of been nothing ever since.

“With the difficulties of hiring the hall space with it being in a school and the contact nature of judo means that it’s all been impossible really.”

Originally from Brighton, the judo bronze-medallist at the London 2012 Paralympic games retired the following year before moving to the Salford area as part of his latest career step with British Cycling.

He set-up the club recently when looking for somewhere for his eldest child to begin their potential judo journey.

Welcoming members back to the club for weekly classes is something Ben is hoping to do in the new year.

He said: “It would be great to get back up and running.”

“We’re just watching this space really and seeing what happens with the British Judo Association (BJA) and what the different phases of returns to training will be.

“I think we can do some non-contact judo but it’s really difficult with the space we have and social distancing for the parents and the people in the hall.

“Because the club’s so young it would be almost impossible to keep it going because of the experienced level the athletes we’ve got.

“So, I don’t want to rush back into it and lose people because it’s not what they were expecting.

“I think we just have to accept that it’s on hold and in 2021 we’ll keep our fingers crossed in the hope that we can get back to some sort of normality.”

As a retired professional judoka and now co-founder of the Irlam judo club, the 39-year-old understands the importance of sport at all levels to communities.

He believes local sports clubs will play a huge part in societies off the back of the pandemic.

“I think sport will play a huge part in re-building society, societal normals and getting people back socialising and interacting.

“It’s going to be weird getting back into judo because obviously it’s full contact and for the last nine months you’ve not even been able to shake anyone’s hand which is a prerequisite of the sport, when you finish your practice, you shake your partner’s hand.

“That’s without grabbing hold of them, trying to throw them or wrestle them!

“It’s weird not being able to do those types of things, it will be odd getting back into it but I think sport at all levels plays a big part in re-building communities going forward.”

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