Judo is my thing. I love judo. I love the possibilities, the ability to change, to alter, to adapt, to evolve. And I love the feeling of sudden death.
I didn’t quite get the results I really wanted, like an Olympic medal, but I gave it a really good crack and got very close!
I could smell that Olympic medal in 2004. I felt amazing on the day. I was buzzing. The preparation had been perfect. And I blasted my way through my opening two fights with Ippons, before beating Brazil’s Carlos Honorato, the silver medallist from Sydney 2000.
In the semi-final I was up against Zurab Zviadauri of Georgia, 2003 World silver medallist. I felt so strong and confident. I had beaten him earlier in the year in Paris, and I waited for my moment before throwing with Sumi gaeshi. It could easily have been scored Waza ari, but the referee gave Yuko, and it proved the defining moment. (Zviadauri went on to become the first ever Olympic Champion for Georgia).
In the bronze medal contest the margin was so fine again. I thought I had caught the defending Olympic Champion – Mark Huizinga of the Netherlands – with Kouchi gari. But he turned it at the very last moment.
At that level there’s nothing in it. Our sport is so ruthless, and a fraction of a second can be the difference. But that’s what makes judo so exciting, and so unique.
Unfortunately I just missed out on the most cherished medal of the lot. But I achieved a lot in my career that I can be proud of.
Junior and senior European medals, Commonwealth Games gold, and in particular competing in three Olympic Games. I think I was the oldest judoka at London 2012; I was almost 36, and that capped 20 years in competitive judo.
I managed to keep myself in good condition and was consistent throughout that period; managing to stay number one in my weight for Great Britain for most of it.
One area I particularly excelled in was my Kumi kata. I love grip-fighting. The different options, the numerous different ways you can do things. My style was always to dominate in Kumi kata and fight at a high tempo. I liked to control my opponent’s power hand and then apply pace and pressure.
I look forward to sharing my judo with you, and I hope you can take some ideas to develop your own judo.
Triple Olympian, Commonwealth Games Champion