Team GB Exclusive: Smythe-Davis out to make history in Rio
Judo

Team GB Exclusive: Smythe-Davis out to make history in Rio

17 June 2016 / 11:32

Nekoda Smythe-Davis is out to make history in Rio and become the first ever Great Britain judoka to win Olympic gold.

Londoner Smythe-Davis, 23, fights in the -57kg category, is currently ranked 14th in the world and this week was named in a seven-strong Team GB squad to compete in Rio.

After winning Commonwealth Games gold in Glasgow in 2014 and competing at the European Games in Baku last year, she has experience of competition at major multi-sport events but knows the Olympic Games are a whole different animal.

Great Britain have won 18 Olympic medals in judo, ten bronze and eight silver, but with no Brit ever having stood atop the podium, Smythe-Davis has dared to dream of what might happen should she make history and become the first.

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“Being the first British gold medallist I cannot comprehend – life would be mental,” said the Ealing Judo Club member.

“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.”

Having moved from London to the British Judo Centre of Excellence, in Walsall, four years ago – in what Smythe-Davis calls her biggest challenge – the 2013 European junior bronze medallist feels like her decision has been vindicated.

With Rio qualification and selection secured, Smythe-Davis is relieved that she can now just focus on one objective.

“It feels amazing to be going to Rio, it feels like the hard work we’ve put in has accomplished what it was intended to, which is to qualify – it feels like the first hurdle has been jumped,” she added.

“Now it is preparing for the last event, which almost feels easy because we are just preparing for one thing.

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 crazyNekoda Smythe-Davis

“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.

“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.”

Gemma Gibbons won a famous silver medal in the -78kg category at London 2012 and remained in the training setup for the qualification process leading into Rio.

Five-time Olympian and double Olympic medallist Kate Howey MBE is also an elite performance coach at the centre of excellence and Smythe-Davis has appreciated having the experienced heads around to learn from and be inspired by.

“It’s been good to have Gemma around, it’s almost like we’re on tour because we compete so much,” she added.

“We don’t really have a season, it’s all year round, we push our bodies to the limits and are travelling the year round.

“Gemma showed in London that you can win a medal even when people don’t expect you to.

“It’s been good to talk to her, there’re times when if you’re down, or struggling at camp, then being with Gemma and Kate, is good, it’s good inspiration.”

The judo competition begins at the Carioca Arena 2 in Rio on Saturday, August 6.

Come and join the Team GB Club, it’s free to sign up and rewards fans – check it out here.

Sportsbeat 2016