Spotlight on Loretta Cusack-Doyle

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Spotlight on Loretta Cusack-Doyle

Posted: 05/10/2021

To celebrate #ActiveGirls and Scottish Women in Sport Week this October, we asked judo World Champion and one of The Gathering 2021 special guests, Loretta Cusack-Doyle a few questions about her judo journey so far. 

Q1. Not only have you competed in Judo at the highest level as a World Champion and double European Champion, but you are also a member of the IJF Coaching and Education Commission and a commentator for the IJF Live Stream Team, but how did it all start? What was it that made you pick Judo?

"My entry point to Judo was age 9, at the Highbury Judo Club in North London, which was girls-only and a great new initiative in those days. My first competition was at age 11, then my first International, the German Junior Open at age 13, where I got a Silver. From that point, I never looked back and seldom failed to win a medal at most competitions whether home or International."

"I was tricked into doing the EJU & IJF commentary work! I was in the middle of doing a “guest appearance” commentary during a Paris Grand Slam when my co-host walked away leaving me to do the commentary by myself! He didn’t return for three hours, and by that time, I had apparently passed the “audition” I didn’t know about or apply for, and they offered me a more permanent, continuous arrangement – which I love, and keeps me involved in Judo at the highest level and gives me the opportunity to promote British Judo, including our wealth of Scottish talent."

"Being part of the IJF Coaching & Educations Commission has involved me travelling to countries (mostly Africa), and training existing Coaches, Clubs and National Teams to higher standards. We are celebrating Scottish Women and Girls Week 2021 and my inclusion in the IJF Coaching and Education Team as a woman was part of the IJF’s aims to ensure greater gender balance and a female perspective in the IJF’s Coaching Staff."

Q2. What’s been the highlight of your career to date?

"Surprisingly perhaps, it was when I won an International Bronze medal, and not my first. I was 17, 40 years ago at the very first Women’s World Championships in 1980 held in the massively impressive Madison Square Gardens in New York and televised to the world and the whole of the USA by CNN. I had scraped into the team by moving up a weight, and I really was not expected to win anything – but – I got Bronze as part of the GB Team that won five medals at that inaugural Women’s Worlds, including Jane Bridge winning GB’s first-ever World Medal, beating the men by two years (Neil Adams won Gold in 1982). We were pioneers for Women’s Judo in those days: twelve months earlier as part of Team GB I had done exhibition tournaments in the USA and other countries to promote the sport for women. We even helped to open up women’s Judo in Japan, where it had previously been regarded as a “hobby” or mere physical exercise for women."

"The greatest personal enjoyment was getting Gold for Scotland at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand. It was superb because this again was a first for women, being the first time that Judo had been included as an event in the Commonwealth Games, and I was now living and working in Scotland, married to a Scot. Winning the Gold cemented my love and passion for Scotland and the Scots Press and Public took me as “yin o thir ane” for which I have always been grateful and honoured."

Q3. Sport can have a positive impact on physical, mental and social health across all stages in life. For you what do you enjoy most about Judo and sport in general?

"Judo, for me, has class. It is sophisticated. It is subtle. It is truly a sport in the best traditions of competitive enjoyment that puts opponents against each other in combat where there is respect and generosity of mind and attitude. We all know that the literal translation from Japanese of the word “Judo” is “the gentle way” – but this has never been truer in setting out our pedigree against the background of the rise of new sports like Mixed Martial Arts: cage fighting: that we see on TV and has become so popular. I abhor a sport where the purpose is to use fists, feet, punches and kicks to deliver a blow that will render the opponent unconscious and incur the risk of serious injury. In Judo, injury is an innocent consequence of unintended mistakes or poor technique, delivered unconsciously and without malice."

"I enjoy being part of our sport and its philosophy, culture and values: Courtesy: Courage: Fair Play: Honour: Modesty: Respect: Self-control: Friendship. What other sport has these values as an integral part of their being?"

Q4. As someone who has been involved in sport throughout their life, what advice would you give to young women and girls starting their Judo journey?

"The advice I would give to young women and girls is to firmly know and believe that there is no conflict in being a woman and participating in a contact sport like Judo. It does nothing to undermine your femininity, attractiveness, or enjoyment of being a woman, mother or granny – so enjoy every moment."

"In terms of your Judo, I think women’s judo is a wonderful sport to watch because, in comparison with men, there is less focus on sheer brute strength and more on skill and technique – good, clean throws. So, I would urge women to resist the urge to solely “muscle up” and instead also concentrate on technical development: enjoy the fundamentals and master them. Developing the technical aspects takes time, and it is more complex and difficult to achieve excellence, but you know when you start to hit the sweet spot, and it then provides you with a life-long suite of tools to compete and excel as a competitive athlete. Physical strength can diminish with age, but strong Judo technique is a lifelong competence that does not fade. Skilful Judo also reduces injury and prolongs your career. Finally, be confident and prepared to make your own judgement in making decisions for your career and life." 

Q5. You have achieved so much in your judo career so far, what’s next?

"Whatever I do next, it will relate to Judo. Judo is my life and I make no apology for that. It is a sport rich in culture and tradition but still progresses to new highs continuously, especially in global terms where it is ranked in the top 5 of participative sports. When I go to tournaments to commentate, the crowds in many stadiums, especially Eastern European, are massive, noisy and wildly enthusiastic. The home of Judo is Japan but the spirit of Judo pervades every corner of the Planet."

"I have been nominated to be President of the British Judo Association upon the retirement of Dr George Kerr CBE 10thDan who has unquestionably been a magnificent Ambassador for British Judo and has my immense respect. If I am successful in being elected, I would wish to build on George’s achievements, and, to have a British Grand Prix event take place annually on our shores."

"In my Presidency, I will carry out my duties in a manner that will be a role model for women, young women and girls in Judo. If successful in being elected, I will be the BJA’s first female President."

"There are many good things about having the British Judo Olympic contenders centralised in Walsall, but we must better recognise the enormous talent and coaching expertise that exists across all Home Nations, especially Scotland, and so I will work to be an Ambassador to bring closer cooperation across our unique UK structure that gives us strength and depth to do better internationally."

"I also have my newly formed Loretta Doyle Judo Foundation, which is a new Charity focussed on providing free Judo to those disadvantaged physically, mentally, or economically or are excluded through prejudice which should play no part in our sport or Society: racism; sexism: sexuality or ethnicity. I will be working hard to raise funds and make every penny count in making Judo the inclusive sport that is the core of our being."

"Our sport is more than just winning medals. The “Family of Judo” truly exists and prospers, and I would wish my Presidency of British Judo to encourage more money and support to find its way into our sport so that it can continue to flourish, and regain its rightful position as the most dynamic, progressive, inclusive, and competitively successful group of nations in the world."


The Gathering Sunday Sessions

Celebrate Scottish women in sports week with Loretta Cusack-Doyle and Chloe Cowen at the Gathering 2021 with 50% off The Gathering Sunday Sessions for female senior members! To book your discounted Sunday space call 0131 333 2981 or email