This year I have entered the EJU European Veterans Championships in Croatia. This may be seen by some as a bit strange – although the ‘masters’ scene is gathering momentum here in this country and is popular in Europe it’s not really seen as the ‘done’ thing – former Olympic players competing at this level.  But then again, I’ve never really been interested in the ‘done’ thing. I’ve been training and competing in judo since I was 6. Even during my mini break over in Thailand I did a judo competition, so I guess you could say it’s a part of me. Although my main priority now lies with coaching, I believe that promoting and taking part in the sport any way you want is a healthy way to continue enjoying being a part of it. I think judo really should be a sport for life and it can be with the right sort of attitude.

So this trip mainly came about because of my parents. People will remember them coming to watch at competitions, they’ve always enjoyed being around it, although I’m still not sure they understand what’s happening! I was happy to let them get on with it. It’s been a great excuse for them to travel round the world as well. The highlight (after Athens and London of course) was probably the 2011 World Championships where they were befriended by a lovely Japanese couple who they still keep in contact with. So although I was never intending to compete again, when I mentioned the Judo Festival in Croatia my mum’s little eyes lit up and the seeds of an idea were hatched. It would be ok for them to go on holiday and enjoy Croatia but wouldn’t it be much better if they were watching their daughter in a judo match? I pointed out that I had other priorities now i.e. looking after and supporting my family and that I couldn’t really justify ‘indulging’ just myself. But now the fires were lit so after some umming and ahhing, a level of financial support was offered and the whole family, mum and dad included, are off on holiday to Croatia for a week! Oh, and there’s a judo competition there…..

I bought my son his first gi for his first birthday, which he has promptly grown out of, but he may just be up to rolling on the mat at some of the family friendly training sessions. I know the organisers are really trying to promote the event with training camps before and after and I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s all about. I am very happy to have contacts through judo all across the world and, once you get past all the politics, it’s definitely not a bad community to be part of. In fact, on a brief family break in Spain just recently I was able to meet up with some of the guys from Valencia who had come to Kendal earlier this year. An old rival of mine Ana Carrascosa, a high level competitor for many years, was also there and we had a great evening.  I hope I have plenty more experiences like this in the future and my door will always be open to old friends.

I know judo clubs up and down the country are little hubs of community and it’s a really special thing when it’s done in the right way. I feel privileged to be a part of it.