Gemma Gibbons, the judoka who captured the hearts of millions when claiming a silver medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games, is to retire from competitive judo to become a PE teacher.
One of Great Britain’s most successful judokas of recent years, Gibbons was selected for the -78kg category at her home Games five years ago and produced the performances of her career to beat some of the world’s best fighters.
And despite getting all the way to the final, it was her semi-final victory over France’s Audrey Tcheumeo that captured the attention of the British public.
Upon receiving the golden score, the 30-year-old looked up to the skies and whispered ‘I love you mum’ in recognition of mother Jeanette, whom she had lost to cancer in 2004.
That became one of the defining images in Great Britain’s first home Games since 1948.
“Today is the day I hang up my competitive judogi,” she said. “At the age of six when I first stepped onto the mat I couldn't have dreamt what was to come. Medals, the best memories and friends, and even a husband, I feel extremely lucky.
“I can't explain how much I've loved having the job 'judo player' but I feel I've given the sport I love everything I have to give and now it's time for me to move onto the next chapter in my life.
“I'm looking forward to developing my next career as a PE teacher, and once graduated from Edinburgh University in a few months' time I'll be hoping to share the wonderful sport that has helped shape me into the person I am today with the many young people I encounter.”
Subsequent years highlighted that result as far from a one-off, as Gibbons became the first British female judoka to win a medal at the Tokyo Grand Slam, while she also picked up Grand Prix gold in Dusseldorf and Ulaanbaatar.
A second Games was not to be forthcoming at Rio 2016, however, as she narrowly missed out on a tight selection battle with Natalie Powell.
But Gibbons admitted a career in the sport she loves meant more than just medals, as she now looked towards future endeavours both in and out of competitive action.
“Judo has given me the platform to learn how crucial determination, commitment, courage and resilience are in order to succeed. These are lessons I will use to shape my future and the future of others," she added.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank all the people who have made my 25 years in the sport, 25 extremely positive ones.
“So many people have played a part in guiding, encouraging and supporting me over the years, thank you to every single one of you, there's no way I would have achieved what I have without you.”