by Gemma Gibbons
It’s the 29th November and I’m at Heathrow airport with the rest of the selected GB judo team about to depart for South Korea. We are heading off to compete in the Korean World Cup, matches and medals won here will gain us valuable Olympic qualifying ranking points.
To qualify for a place to compete in the Olympic Games judo players need to be ranked in the top 16 in the World in their weight category. For the 2012 London Olympics the qualifying period commenced in May this year and will end just months before the Games begin in May 2012. The point scoring events make up a World Circuit which consists of 4 Grand Slams, 4 Grand Prix and 20 World Cups each year. The results from these events make up a World Ranking List and all judoka across the globe are striving towards the top end of that list and a place in London where they will have the chance to become part of judo history.
As we depart for Korea I am ranked as number 54 in the World, this is an adequate ranking considering in judo terms I am still young, but I am striving to move up the ranking list and hope to be in the top 25 by the middle of 2011.
As Korea is 9 hours ahead of Britain the first few days are spent trying to adjust to this time difference so that we will be able to give our absolute best performance come competition day. The first day or so after arriving we do only light exercise. Over the following two days we build up the intensity to replicate the physical demands that will be required on competition day.
It’s now the 3rd December and the competition has begun, it is split over two days, my weight category competes on the following day so today is spent cheering on team mates, resting and focusing on the task ahead, on defeating the words best judo athletes when I come face to face with them across the mat tomorrow.
On contest day I weigh in at 7am (judo is a weight category sport and I have to weigh under 70kg to be eligible to compete in my division), I grab a quick breakfast before heading off to the venue and begin my warm up. Competition is tough, I have 3 fights and end up wining the bronze medal against the Korean girl, gaining myself 40 ranking points. This is only my second medal at this level of tournament and is therefore a great success. By gaining these points I have moved up 15 points on the ranking list, and am now ranked 39.
We had a team of 10 players out here and came away with 3 medals, not bad for a team result and on a personal level a great result due to gaining one of these 3 medals.
Following the competition we take part in a three day training camp where everyone gets to battle it out in two two-hour sessions each day. As we are going on to Japan to fight again we are tapering so swap one of the judo sessions each day for either a conditioning circuit or weights session.
We have now been in Korea for just over a week and it is now time to move on to Japan. We have a short flight before touching down in Tokyo. The competition we are out here to compete in is one of the 4 Grand Slams on the World circuit, and with it being held in Japan, the strongest and most successful judo nation, success in this competition is going to be one hard feat!
We train between ourselves for the first few days, drilling gripping strategies and our favourite techniques. Nerves are starting to rise in the GB camp as the competition gets closer and everyone realises the enormity of the task ahead. The competition is held over 3 days and I am fighting on the last day, so I get to watch my team mates while trying to keep calm before it’s my turn to take to the mat on day 3.
It’s the morning of the competition and I look to see who my first fight is. Unfortunately for me I have pulled the number 1 Japanese girl, who is also ranked number 3 in the World, but I know that these are the level of judoka I need to be competing against and beating in order to gain my dream of Olympic success in 2012. It’s a close fight with both of us scoring against each other, but in the last minute I manage to score again with a bigger score and hold out to the end of the match for a win. For me this is a great win as I have previously lost to this fighter twice before, and not only did I win but I felt strong while doing so. I now have to compete against another Japanese fighter, who again is ranked much higher than me on the ranking list, at number 9 she is ranked 30 places above me in the ranking lists. But I am feeling strong and enter the fight hard, it’s a tough battle and I end up losing the fight on a small score at the end of match time. I am disappointed but I feel I felt well, the girl I lost to ended up winning the tournament. I finish in 5th place and gain another 60 ranking points, moving up to 31 on the ranking list.
We had a team of 12 competing in Japan, and the team came away with 1 bronze and 3 5th places, although as a team result this is not outstanding, I was happy with my individual performance.
The following 3 days are spent fighting it out on a training camp, and then it’s the 16th December and it’s time to fly home. I had a great time in Asia but am happy to be coming back home for Christmas.
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