Craig Fallon: Tributes are paid to world judo champ
Tributes have been paid after former world judo champion Craig Fallon died aged just 36.
The double-Olympian, from Wolverhampton, had been appointed coach of the Welsh national team just four months ago.
The former Wolverhampton Judo Club ace, who lived in Telford with his partner and their son, held both the world and European titles in 60kg events, which he won in 2005 and 2006. He also won gold at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and represented Great Britain at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games at Athens and Beijing respectively.
Long-time coach and friend Fitzroy Davis said: “Knowing Craig from the age of 15, I can look back on our time working together with fond memories and fun times.
“At the pinnacle of his career, winning the World Championships in Cairo 2005, he was in my eyes one of the true greats of British Judo. His dedication to the sport he loved will stay with me forever and I will cherish the time we spent together. Craig will be a huge loss to the sport but I hope his achievements and his incredible story will inspire future generations to come.”
Olympic judoka Gemma Howell, from Telford, a member of Wolverhampton Judo Club tweeted: “You were the reason my dad took me to Wolverhampton judo club and I started Judo. You were an incredible judo player, then coach, and a massive inspiration to so many. You will be very missed. RIP Craig.”
The judo star, from Wednesfield, took a two-year self-imposed break from the sport after a disappointing performance in Beijing and moved up to compete in the under-66kg category on his return.
But his comeback was short-lived and he quit competition at the age of 29 to become a coach, going on to manage Austria’s national squad. In 2012, he was inducted into the Wolverhampton Sporting Hall of Fame.
The former Heath Park School pupil started his career at Wolverhampton Judo Club before moving to Hardy Spicer 83 Judo Club in Birmingham at the age of 14.
He also trained full-time as part of the National Academy at Bisham Abbey. He was only the second man, along with Neil Adams, to hold both the world and European titles.
British Judo performance director Nigel Donohue said: “It is with great shock to hear of the passing of Craig.
“Firstly, Craig is a son and father, as well as an outstanding judo fighter of his generation in world judo.
“He “Craig was a fantastic ambassador for British judo and is our most successful athlete in the modern era of world judo and the most talented judoka that I have ever had the pleasure to watch competing for Great Britain, where he became a European and World Champion. To this date
“Craig remains the last British Judoka to be crowned World Champion. He will be greatly missed by his family and the judo world, who has lost a talented athlete and coach.”
In 2017, he started coaching at Judo Landesverband Vorarlberg in Austria before returning to the UK to become head coach of the Welsh Judo Association.
His family have said that Craig was much loved by everyone who knew him, but they would appreciate privacy at this hard time.