We have now entered the third month of 2012. Doesn’t time fly by. It seems like only yesterday that we hit the ‘one year until London 2012 ’ marker, and now here we are with 141 days to go until the Opening Ceremony. It is 144 days until the -57kg and -73kg competition day kicks off in the Excel Centre. The London Olympics will be different for me because at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, I competed on day four in the -63kg category, however as London approaches my focus is to move out of the -63kg and to fight and be successful in the -57kg.
When making this decision I asked myself the following questions “Why? Why have I done the opposite of what most players do as they become older and move down instead of up? Why move out of a weight category that I was number one in for the last seven years? Why did I move out of a weight category that would have meant I was in pole position at -63kg for the London Olympics after winning a bronze and a gold at two World Cups in 20011?"
My answer is due to combination of reasons and it’s something I have thought long and hard about. It is a decision that has not come easily for me and is one that I have discussed with all the people who are important to me.
Part of my reasoning to change weight was based on previous experience as three years ago I made a similar decision. Post Beijing, I dropped down to -57kg and had some good results. At the beginning of 2009, I won gold in the Belgium B Tournament. In my next two tournaments I took bronze and silver at The World Cup in Prague and The European Championships in Tbilisi respectively. Over these two tournaments I beat the current Olympic Champion (Quintavalle of Italy) twice and lost the European final on hantei to Monteiro of Portugal. My final two tournaments at -57kg were the World Championships in Rotterdam and The Tokyo Grand Slam, where at different rounds in the tournaments I lost to Matsumoto (Japan) the current World Number One and 2010 World Champion. At the end of 2009, I felt that it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain my body weight over a sustained period of time and moved back to -63kg. Now I feel the time is right to compete again, at -57kg. It is a decision that many other people may not agree with. But I believe this is the right one for me, and if I did not make it, it would be something that I would regret.
I am 173cm tall (old school, 5 feet 8 inches) and my natural body weight is usually around 60-61kg. For my whole judo career I have been constantly trying to weigh around 63-64kg so not to ‘give too much weight away’. This was also one of the reasons why I chose to drop a category. When I fought at 57kg in 2009, I had great nutritional advice and I ate very well. This time, with the help, I have made weight in a way I believe, as professionally as possible. Over a period of months, I monitored my weight, my body composition, my daily food intake, my hydration and my strength and power. Without cutting down hugely on particular carbohydrates, I manipulated my diet so that I was eating healthy food six times a day. With the help of the nutritionist we made sure that I was taking on the right amount of nutrients, in the right ratio and from the right sources thus maintaining a healthy diet that allowed me to train optimally. My weight loss was slow and steady and my energy was high. This slow ‘fat’ loss and good nutrition also helped me to recover quickly during sessions and minimize injuries. So another reason for being at this category is that I will now be competing at the upper limit of 57kg rather than below the 63kg mark so having made weight correctly, ‘pound for pound’, I should be stronger and more powerful.
I am now in Japan with other members of the GB Team, about to begin a four-week training camp that I am looking forward to. I have set out clear and specific goals for the camp with the aim of preparing me for the European Championships at the end of April and ultimately the Olympic Games in London on July 30th. Having competed in two competitions this year at 57kg and with no medal in either, I had to sit down and examine where I could improve. I know I am very professional in my preparation. I’m very meticulous when it comes to organization, day-to-day training, nutrition, recovery, and health and opponent analysis. At this stage in my career, the improvements will only be tiny, but they may be the difference between a medal, or none. I am confident in my own ability and I believe that the results will come. However, at the end of the day, I must remember, it is a fight. And with the best planning and preparation in the world, if I don’t FIGHT, I won’t win.
Sarah and the GB team in Japan
A tasty Japanese lunch
Outside the hotel in Japan
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