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The life of an Olympic judoka
Gemma Howell is a British judo player, who originally comes from Stafford. In 2018, she took home the Bronze at the European Championships in Tel Aviv. Gemma also previously competed at the home Olympics back in 2012. Then, most recently, she competed against other judokas from all over the world, in the Tokyo 2021 Olympics. We spoke to Gemma and about her experience of the Olympics, asking her the questions that came in to us from our young ambassadors.

“My favourite section was the Japanese food - I love gyozas!”

We could not have been more delighted by the results of this year’s Olympics. In the face of a global pandemic (no less) Team GB pulled out all the stops, and did the nation incredibly proud.

There were some amazing highlights from this year’s competitions, spanning the track, velodrome, field and water.

The entirety of Footwork HQ was totally hooked on the Olympics, and we continue to be just as glued to the events of the Paralympics.

So, we were absolutely thrilled to hear first-hand from Gemma who got to represent Great Britain right at the heart of it all, at Tokyo 2021. She originally trained at Wolverhampton Judo Club and from there, she has advanced to compete on the international stage.

Our young brand ambassadors who are junior sports players had a number of questions for Gemma about her Tokyo Olympics experience and she gave us the insider scoop about the famous athletes’ village, the nerves before the big fight and where it all began for her.

What was it like in the athletes’ village?

“It’s a very good place to people watch! Team GB was really lucky, because we all had bikes, which were great because the village was massive.

“I loved the dining hall. They had different types of food from all over the world, and my favourite section was the Japanese food – I love gyozas!”

Could any of the athletes stay in Tokyo after their competition and watch other events?

“To help protect all the athletes from COVID, we had to be out of the village 48 hours after we competed, and unfortunately we weren’t allowed to watch other sports. But we enjoyed watching them for the TV’s in our apartments.”

“To qualify for Judo you have to be in the top 18 on the world ranking list."

“I get nervous before every competition, I think it’s good to be a bit nervous!"

Right at before the bell, does the pressure really hit, or does your routine just kick in at that point?

“With judo, you don’t know how long the fights that happen before yours are going to take. So you have to be ready to either go on quickly, or wait a while before your fight starts. I speak to my coach or listen to music to help me stay calm.”

What special training or achievements did you need to represent Team GB at the Olympics?

“To qualify for Judo you have to be in the top 18 on the world ranking list. You get points from winning medals at Grand Prix’s and Grand Slams. I won 2 Grand Prix gold medals, which I am very proud of.”

What inspired you to take up judo as your favourite sport?

“Wolverhampton Judo Club had lots of great players, including the late Craig Fallon, so my Dad took me along and I loved it so much that I never stopped going.”

Is it horribly nerve-wracking to be there and wait for your event? If so, how do you cope with that feeling?

“I get nervous before every competition, I think it’s good to be a bit nervous! I tried to treat the Olympics like any other competition and focus on giving my best performance and not about the final result.”

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