-52Kg European Champion 2002
up with George shortly after she had won her title...
Tell us how you have balanced your training with your further education
over the last couple of years.
Last year was the final year of my engineering degree. I was actually
resitting my final year as I was supposed to have finished in 1999,
but had chosen to drop out to concentrate on my Judo. At that time
my degree wouldn't have been the grade that I wanted because of the
time I was spending training. The result was that I had to take 10
months out, because the final year at Reading University is four terms
long, so I needed to rejoin in the last term of the second year. This
effectively put me back two school years so, along with the fact that
the University had been so accommodating, I felt the need to work
much harder than I had in previous years. During this time I was only
training three times a week: twice at my home club, Pinewood, and
once at the centre of excellence at High Wycombe. The rest of the
time was spent working on my dissertation and essays although I did
manage to run during the university lunch breaks. It was a lot of
work. I wasn't necessarily tired but I chose to put judo second as
I really didn't want to ruin my academic chances again. There is life
after judo and I need something to fall back on in the future.
Following my degree I had planned to take a small part time job and
concentrate on my judo, but my lecturers at uni' suggested that I
should start teacher training (Post Graduate Certificate of Education,
P.G.C.E.) as they thought I would make a good teacher. Judo wise the
timing would be good as there were no World Championships or Olympics
during the academic cycle but I couldn't make up my mind until just
two weeks before the course started. Fortunately they still accepted
me. I had decided I could enter the Europeans, finish my course and
then have one month to prepare for the Commonwealth Games. But then
the Bisham Abbey course started with the judo Academy and I really
wanted to be part of that, in order to step up my training and be
able to compete with the rest of the world. In 2001 I know all the
foreigners were training a lot harder than me, while I was only 'ticking
over', and OK I still got to the semi-final of the Europeans but there
is a big difference stepping up to the World's. I actually had to
sit my finals the day after returning from the Europeans and I didn't
prepare properly for the World's that year either. Now, I really want
to give judo the time it deserves. So far I have kept it running parallel
with my education (in 1994 I did put judo first, and it proved very
successful for me, as I won the junior World Championships). Now is
certainly the best time to do it judo wise, but it has been hardest
thing I have ever done! You have to phone-in if you're going to be
absent or late. It's like being back at school! I have had 13 days
off school and missed 10 days of university because of judo, out of
a 36 week long course, (six weeks longer than any other university
course). Of that, one week was before the Europeans due to my back
injury. Consequently I have been quite poorly because of trying to
balance so many different things.
So what's new in your training since going to Bisham Abbey?
(Bell) gave me a fitness programme before these Europeans: a light
dumbell weight circuit, a sprint circuit and fat burning running.
I want to do weight-training but have to be very careful not to gain
weight as I am naturally three kilos over my fighting weight. I've
never had any idea about weight-training, but my judo side has always
been very professional - with my coach, Don Werner, it's 100 per cent.
I'm now planning to improve the support training. I don't have a degree
in sports science so that is why I went to Bisham Abbey and started
working with Diane, as well as learning tactics and gripping from
Jamie (Johnson) and Udo (Quellmalz). So I really have stepped up my
training and it certainly paid off at the Europeans and will again,
I hope, at the Commonwealth's. My teacher training finishes in three
weeks time and I can't wait to just be doing judo and teaching 15
hours a week, then I'll be able to concentrate on the 2003 World's.
That's why I am applying to move into the Academy full-time as I think
that will give me a fair chance - do me nothing but good. I'll be
able to do a lot more training. I have already given my availability
outside my training times to Furzeplatt in Maidenhead (the school
where I've done some of my teacher training and where I'll be starting
as a full staff member in September) so everything should fit in well
together. I'm not somebody that could do full time judo, I need something
else to stimulate my mind, and also, having faced a really tough time
over the last Olympics I couldn't imagine just being involved in judo.
I am hopeful that my application to Bisham will be accepted even though
I don't want to do any of the educational courses - I've been in education
How do you feel about Furzeplatt school?
It's a comprehensive for 11-16 year-olds with two-thirds boys and
I can't wait to start! I really like the kids and they love the fact
that I do judo. If I go into the class with marks on my face, they
say " Miss. did you do her? Are you going to do her this week Miss?
". I get a lot of support from both the kids and the staff. With maths
being a difficult subject for most people I try to keep it practical,
giving the girls examples to do with mixing the correct quantities
of sand and cement and getting the lads to work out required amounts
of washing up liquid! I try hard not to be stereotypical, as I have
always gone against traditional girls activities. I did do ballet
when I was younger and got my grades (and I was in a show, as a little
yellow dump truck, waving at mum from the stage!) but it wasn't for
me. I did swimming as well but I never won anything.
So when did you start judo?
When I was five. Quite a few children on the estate where I lived
did judo and I first went along aged four to start but was sent away
as the course started one-week before my 5th birthday. At Pinewood
beginners courses are only run twice a year, starting in October and
April. I had to wait until the April before I could begin and I've
been there ever since. I had my first competition at six, I lost,
but came off smiling, for which I was told off! Don is firm on this
- you don't smile whether you win or lose. Even when I won the Junior
World Championships I didn't say a word or raise an arm, I just stood
there. As we have grown older Don has become more accepting of an
expression of celebration, but his worry with the youngsters is that
they may become 'too big for their boots' so he nips it in the bud.
Taking a Gold in the European individuals this year and getting
a team Silver at the same event must have been great.
Winning the title was fantastic. I couldn't sleep properly for days
afterwards. I just wanted to go to the World Championships. (I was
so disappointed at last year's World's - it was the most gut-wrenching
experience of my life). I've had people saying the individuals event
in my weight was easier this year as people like Imbriani GER and
the French No.1 weren't entered. But Annabel Euranie is the current
French No. 1. She was selected over Tignola after winning the World
Masters and getting Silver in the Paris tournament. People have also
said that just because I'm European Champion it doesn't mean I'm a
World contender. I appreciate that the Asians and Cubans are very
strong at -52kg but I am a consistent European medallists. This is
my third - I have had two Silvers and didn't want another one! It
wouldn't have mattered how hard it was that day, I wasn't going to
be phased by who they were - (anyone can throw you, anybody could
catch you) I felt so good I was set to win. But aside from taking
the title, the real highlight of the Europeans for me was beating
Tignola FRA in the team event. I felt happier after throwing her than
I have ever felt in my whole life! Our past form is 7-1 to her. The
French had fielded Euranie in the -52kg slot up to then but substituted
Tignola to fight me as they were sure she would beat me. When she
won our Bronze medal bout at the Europeans last year it was fair and
square, but the main bone of contention was the final of the Europeans
in 2000. We had a Chui each and were linked up left to left, trading
kick for kick, when, 15 seconds from time, the referee stopped the
match and penalised me Kiekoku, meaning I now had to score Waza-ari
to win. So that was it. That was my Gold medal gone. People who had
spoken to the referee before the match said he had a preconceived
idea of who the winner would be as he had said "The franc is stronger
than the pound". I was really pleased to beat her this time, and in
golden score too! Having been off the mat for two weeks before I didn't
feel exceptionally fit and I had been finding the new five minute
contest time hard. I've only had two 'A' tournaments this year due
to studies and being poorly, so I had only done five, five-minute
fights beforehand. I had been to a few other competitions looking
for five-minute fights without success. What people perhaps don't
realise is that it is actually 25 per cent extra time, which for somebody
like me who is always active, is even harder. For years I could tell
you how long four minutes was because you get used to it. In Budapest
I was getting thrown at four and a half minutes, so I have done a
lot of interval training just to get my body used to the five minute
duration. I was really surprised that I was fitter than Tignola, especially
since I had made the weight twice and she was my 7th fight of the
What do you think about the Golden Score system?
I think it will do a lot for spectators. What I really liked in Slovenia
this year was that they changed the scoreboard completely so that
people could tell the players were into golden score, so if they arrived
part way through the fight they could appreciate how crucial the next
score would be. I don't think I'd ever like to go 10 minutes but from
what I understand most golden scores are settled in the first minute
and a half of "golden time". It certainly requires strong mental preparation
to cope with it. I remember in the European semi's last year thinking
"I have never done this before, I can't do it " and running at her,
but I lost anyway. This year it happened twice. The first time, I
panicked. I thought "I can't do another five minutes", but Don called
out "You'll be fine. You really will be fine. Don't worry about it".
He knew I was worried. I thought maybe my asthma would kick in and
that I wouldn't be able to do it, but sure enough in both cases I
threw the girls for 10 (Ippon). You just have to go back to the line,
take a deep breath and say "here we start again". It's a mental thing.
The player that goes straight back, tidies their belt up and stands
ready to go usually wins over the one that lets their head drop.
You clearly have enormous respect for your coach, Don Werner.
Don Werner is one of the most honest people I know, he can handle
the truth. What he can't accept is somebody lying or finding out something
else later. After the World's last year I've probably got the world
record for penalties. I came off the mat saying - "I really don't
know what to do, I don't know how I could have fought any differently"
and he said "Neither do I, we're going to have to ask some people".
That is a big sign of somebody's character - he doesn't think he has
all the answers. He will experiment with ideas and techniques and
will ask us what we think. The wrap-over hold that I used in the final
was something he invented while sitting at home. He's constantly thinking
judo. The factor with Don is that all of his players are individuals.
Karen Roberts, Nick Fairbrother and I are all very different, maybe
there are some similarities in style and but we are not replicas of
each other. He encourages the individuality of each player, and he
never compares us with each other. With Don, a fiveyear old in a competition
is just as important as Karen or me. We get a limit on the number
of tournaments that he can attend with us. He was really worried about
me in 1999 when I left, because I didn't train for six months, but
my early training at the club has given me strength of character and
I was able to get over not being selected for the Sydney Games.
So, what's the plan now?
It's set in my mind that I can do two Olympics, and having missed
Sydney I'm obviously looking to Athens and then beyond that to Beijing.
Well TWOJ certainly hopes to have many more stunning pictures of you
in action over the coming years. Good luck and thanks for talking
DOUMA, Yacine (FRA)
UNGVARI Miklos (HUN)
LARYUKOV, Anatoly (BLR)
UZNADZE, Irakli (TUR)
GREKOV, Valentyn (UKR)
VAN DER GEEST, Elco (NED)
TMENOV, Tamerlan (RUS)
VAN DER GEEST, Dennis (NED)
JOSSINET, Frédérique (FRA)
SINGLETON, Georgina (GBR)
CAVAZZUTI, Cinzia (ITA)
DECOSSE, Lucie (FRA)
DADCI, Adriana (POL)
LEBRUN Celine (FRA)
KÖPPEN, Sandra (GER)
GERBER Katja (GER)