Judo star Szandra Szogedi won the Achievement of the Year Award at the recent UEL Sports Awards. The award was in recognition of the bronze medal that she won at the African Championships in April, but could have been for any number of performances in the season of her sporting career.
Szandra, a second year undergraduate journalism student, started the season representing Ghana at the World Senior Championships in Paris, and finished it with a ranking inside the world’s top 40. Despite the heartbreak of just missing out on Olympic selection, Szandra can take pride from an impressive collection of results over the course of the year.
After reaching the quarter-finals of her first World Senior Championships, Szandra was an impressive winner at the London University and College Senior Open Championships.
Szandra went on to finish 5th at the German Grand Prix in Dusseldorf, beating the Olympic bronze medalist in the process. As well as boosting her World Rankings, this performance gave Szandra a confidence boost going into the BUCS Championships which she subsequently won with some ease. Szandra went into the African Championships knowing that she would need at least a medal to secure Olympic qualification. Despite the pressure, Szandra won bronze; her first senior continental medal.
Unfortunately for Szandra the other results at the African Championships didn’t go her way. If the Olympics places had been awarded after the German Grand Prix Szandra would be an Olympian. Despite not putting a foot wrong all year and actually climbing the world rankings from that point, Szandra just missed out on gaining the only African wild-card entry available to Ghana. She will have to wait another 4 years to fulfil her Olympic dream, but given the level of improvement that she has shown over the course of the past 12 months selection will be easier next time round.
While Szandra has had some impressive results over the past year, taking into consideration that that she is a full time student these results become even more impressive. In addition to her UEL Sports Scholarships, she funds her sport by coaching local school children and inspiring the next generation of judo players. In her ‘spare time’ she acts as an ambassador for UELSports and has done talks and appearances at schools across Newham. Her enthusiasm for Judo is infectious, and if you were choosing someone that is going to succeed in life and in sport, your money would be on Szandra.