Having waited much longer than expected for my first fight, I was pleased when it was actually my turn to get on to the tatami. Still a relatively new face to competitive judo, I didn’t know anything about any of my components but sometimes that can be an advantage. I first came up against one Sarah Digweed, who is a dan grade, and initially I was pleased with my performance – although I was somewhat sceptical about why I was winning, and I kept myself on edge waiting for the moment to come when the tables would turn. It wasn’t the tables that turned though; it was me! When Sarah was on all fours, I put my hand on her waist – I’m not sure why; perhaps because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Her arm clasped my hand where it was, and she tried to turn me. I blocked the turn with my leg outstretched and then cleverly she turned me the other way. When I landed, she had both my arms trapped (although at the time I didn’t know how) and I had no chance of escape. I lost that one but at least managed to last about a minute.
My next fight was against another black belt – I later found out a second dan. She was not that difficult to dominate and watching the video of the fight afterwards, I saw we both made a handful of mistakes. Suffering from discomfort in my elbow, I was wearing a bandage which came undone mid-fight and I was pleased when the ref stopped the match and allowed me rectification. With the bandage rewound and taped up this time, I resumed my fight with determination. I was dominant for a lot of it and, towards the end, I wondered if a yamara arashi move would work. In hindsight, I thought I had tried it, but watching the video, it seems that I just turned my body to move uke and secure her in a tight kesa hold she told me afterwards she would “never get out of”.
Knowing the competition was tough, I stayed clear of complacency and approached my next fight with justified caution. My rival was Olivia Spellman (who I was later told ranked nationally in the top 3). Her strong posture and confident movements as she shuffled towards me immediately made me realise she was very different to my first two competitors, and although I tried my best, it wasn’t long before she had me in an arm lock that was applied so competently, I was actually quite scared. I matte’d the fight abruptly and, after the reis, I walked off the mat shaking. I calmed myself gradually and was pleased to have been given the gold medal for being top of my own league (even though the women I’d fought were in a different league altogether albeit for different reasons).