Olympic Judo's heroines
The Olympic womens’ 78kg judo competition came to an incredible climax this morning between Gemma Gibbons and Kayla Harrison. Yet the real magic of this final was not necessarily the fight itself but the journey of these two athletes to such a moment. Both Gemma and Kayla have triumphed over extremely challenging circumstances during their early careers, channelling these experiences into drive to succeed rather than giving up. The silver medallist, Gemma Gibbons, lost her mum age 17 to leukaemia - incomprehensible to most. As a single parent Gemma’s mum had always been her biggest fan giving her huge support early on in judo competitions.
In a very emotional moment Gemma said that ‘I knew that carrying on is what mum would have wanted me to do’ and on getting into the final she looked up to the skies and called ‘I love you mum’. On the other hand, the victor, had been a victim of sexual abuse by her coach at the age of 13. Such traumatic events, which continue to be very much taboo, drove Kayla not just to consider quitting the sport but running away from home and was even suicidal at moments. Yet, incredibly, she was able to transform these emotions into positive drive to succeed and after finding a new judo school, coach and enrolling in therapy rebuilt her confidence and love for judo.
The mental resilience of these two women is truly something to behold and I believe they really encompass the Olympic spirit. Congratulations to them both!