Nekoda Smythe-Davis is hoping to follow the lead of Gemma Gibbons at the Rio Olympics.
Gibbons won an emotional judo silver at London 2012, famously mouthing ‘I love you mum’ after winning her semi-final and dedicating her medal to her mother, who she’d lost to leukaemia.
Smythe-Davis, 23, was watching that performance on the television and admits it fuelled her desire to take finally her sport seriously and dream of doing the same.
She moved from London to the British Judo Centre of Excellence in Walsall and within 12 months had cracked the podium at European junior level.
“Gemma showed in London that you can win a medal even when people don’t expect you to,” said Smythe-Davis.
“It’s been good to talk to her, there’re times when if you’re down or struggling at camp, then it’s good inspiration to have someone like her around.
“Everyone dreams of being at the Olympics when you watch it on the TV, but in terms of me actually targeting going to the Games and qualifying, it has been since London and watching Gemma.
“It has been four years since I took the decision to leave home in London, move to Walsall, join the centre and start training full-time.
“That meant not going to university, stop working, so it was a massive decision but one that I do not regret, I’m here having qualified for Rio - it was the perfect thing for me.
“I’m an Olympian now but I want more.”
Smythe-Davis won gold at the Commonwealth Games and is ranked just outside the
world’s top ten. Both Ashley McKenzie and Colin Oates have slipped to early exits in Rio so far and Smythe-Davis is daring to dream big ahead of today’s -57kg competitions.
Great Britain have won 18 Olympic medals in judo, ten bronze and eight silver, but no Brit has ever been on the podium’s top step.
“Being the first British gold medallist I cannot comprehend – life would be mental,” added Smythe-Davis.
“The moment you step off the rostrum you can just imagine it is going to be like a whirlwind, so much to do, so many people to talk to, it’s going to be absolutely crazy.
“If you were the first person then obviously you would go down in history and that will be forever, no-one can take it away from you. That is the dream, and it would be amazing.”