OLYMPIC silver medallist Gemma Gibbons hopes memories conjured by Kendal Dojo can inspire gold at the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Gibbons won British Judo’s first Olympic medal in 12 years at London 2012 and provided one of the iconic moments of the Games when she paid tribute to her late mother following semi-final success.
After a catalogue of injuries in recent years, including a fractured wrist, shoulder reconstruction surgery and ankle issues, the 27-year-old has only just returned to competitive -78kg action.
Selected in a 14-strong England side, Gibbons and the rest of her teammates spent the weekend in Kendal as part of a holding camp ahead of the Commonwealth Games.
Determined to showcase her talents on the international stage once again, the seven-time World Cup medallist is in no uncertain terms about the goals she is setting herself in Glasgow.
“It was nice to come back and step onto the exact mats which I fought on and won my silver medal at the Olympic Games,” she said.
“I had forgotten about that until I got here. It’s been really good to come to the Kendal Dojo again – the facilities are great and there is a real sense of community and family about the place.
“Fingers crossed the mats will inspire gold as that’s what I’m going to Glasgow for, I’m going for gold.
“Hopefully, if everything goes well and I have a good day and put in a performance I can come away with the medal I’m after.
“I fully believe I am the best player in my weight category and I believe I can win.”
Due to her well-documented injury problems, the two years since London 2012 have been far from plain sailing, although Gibbons has produced when fitness has permitted.
With Grand Prix and Grand Slam medals in her back pocket, a first Commonwealth Games appearance will act as an important step in her resurgence.
Gibbons will compete on the same day as her husband Euan Burton – chosen as Team Scotland’s flag bearer – with success important as thoughts of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics drift into focus.
“It’s been quite an eventful two years since the Olympics and there have been a lot of ups and downs,” she added.
“Judo wise it has not been a great two years but at the same time I’ve still managed to get some of my best results when I’ve managed to compete.
“Injuries have definitely hindered the results I could have potentially got. The Commonwealth Games will only be my third competition back so I’m hoping to get stuck in and get that medal.
“It is an important step in my comeback from injury and if I do well I think it will give me a lot of confidence going into World Championships at the end of August.
“We’re at the beginning of a two-year qualifying period where I’ll be trying to get as many points as possible in order to book a place at Rio and perhaps go one better than London.”
Following their work with Oceania ahead of London 2012 and having also hosted the Vanuata Commonwealth Team, the Kendal Dojo has continued its association with top level judo.
And having cast his eye over some of the finest judoka in the country, head coach Mike Liptrot believes Gibbons and Team England are well-placed to win a string of gold medals
“We’ve been the final stage of preparation for the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, World Championships, European Championships and Olympic Games,” he said.
“We’ve done it quite a few times and in fairness everyone would be rather surprised if teams and individuals didn’t come to Kendal to prepare for major championships.
“I believe Team England is in great shape and most athletes will be favourites in their weight class.
“I expect England to do very well although there could well be a couple of athlete challenging them, including Fiji’s Josateki Naulu who has also been with us.”