Sarah Driven on by the Weight of Expectations

February 11, 2014

“To be a heavyweight, you have to be over 78kg and when I was younger, I was bigger than I am now,” said judoka Sarah Adlington.

“I was a big kid and therefore being different, it was challenging at times. But I was never a girly girl, I was always a tomboy. It’s harder to be different when you’re younger, but when you’re older, you just get on with it.”

Currently ranked 17th in the world, the happy-go-lucky heavyweight from Shrewsbury has been on the mat since the tender age of five, having been itching to give it a go after watching her older brother train. She said: “I couldn’t wait to get on the mat. Since starting, there has never been a moment when I have not done Judo.”

Moving to Edinburgh at 17 to be part of the Judo Scotland setup in Ratho, Sarah is a cheery and upbeat character who, when pulling on the Judogi (Judo suit), changes her whole persona.

Being a sport which involves throwing the opponent to the ground, judo may be mistaken as an aggressive sport, but not for Sarah: “I’m not a naturally aggressive person, well I do have my moments. I like Judo because it’s different, it is a tactical battle and your tactics have to adapt to the opponent you’re toe-to-toe with. Judo, for me, is more centred on a competitive drive to outmanoeuvre your opponent.”

Despite no blows being allowed on the mat, only grapple manoeuvres, Sarah suffered a big blow back in 2012 when she failed to qualify for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

“Not competing in London was really hard,” said Sarah. “I still find it hard to talk about it. London was always the aim, that is what everyone spoke about ever since London won the bid. But somebody else qualified just above me. I was 16 in the world, so really high, but she was in the top 10. So I could see it coming but when I went out first fight in the Europeans and she won the bronze; that was the nail in the coffin. From that day, I knew.”

Sarah couldn’t even bring herself to watch the London Olympics on TV and it is this painful memory which keeps her focused on the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

She said: “Being part of Team Scotland and my opportunity to fight in a home games which I missed out on in London, with home fans and home support would be incredible. I’ve never been in a Games environment like that, so to experience it would be amazing.”

Sarah was two places off the podium in the Paris Grand Prix last weekend, defeating the current World and Olympic champion Idalys Ortiz from Cuba in the quarter-finals. She will now head for the European Open in Rome next weekend, followed by the Dusseldorf Grand Prix the week after.

You can follow Sarah on Twitter @BigYin78

Photo Credit: Judo Scotland

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