Once I knew we were moving to Hong Kong training took a back seat. Not only was I very busy making all the preparations, but I also wanted to make the most of my last few months in the UK surrounded by friends and family. As a result I reduced my training schedule to around twice a week with one weights session for around a month and a half before we left, and after arriving, training has been extremely disrupted as we adapt to our new home and environment.
Having a break from training and competing is not a bad thing, in fact, I think it’s important to have these breaks as it forces you to have perspective, assess your priorities, and helps you remember that you are not defined by your athletic career. This perspective helps you to understand what really matters to you, and it has made me unfalteringly sure that I am a judo athlete hungry for success.
Since arriving, it has been a frustrating search for a Judo club with the right volume of training, there are plenty of Judo clubs here, though most seem to train only twice a week or are too far to travel to regularly. When you identify as a Judo athlete working steadily on a path to success, it is disheartening not to be training, rather than progressing towards your destination you feel as if you are being dragged back to the start line. In reality you have just stopped for coffee and to ask for directions along the way.
After 7 weeks in Hong Kong with no significant progress made I received an email from a talent ID program in the UK run by UK Sport. I had the opportunity to attend a talent identification event looking for female athletes in combat sports which, if successful, would ultimately lead to fast track onto the Olympic pathway. I knew I could be successful if I took up this opportunity. With a shortcut to my goal presented to me in the UK, in that moment it was tough to see how Hong Kong was the preferable option. I had no club, no Judo, my brilliant and supportive coaches were 5,000 miles away and I wasn’t moving forward.
With a little perspective (and a trip to Disneyland) Hong Kong presented itself as the golden fountain of opportunity that it is. Hong Kong allows me to live a lifestyle where I train but also support myself financially and even put aside some savings to rely on in the future. It allows me to develop my career so that I am not defined by results alone. It allows me the flexibility to travel to parts of the world I wouldn’t see from home, to train in Japan, to fight in Asia. It offers me challenges and experiences which require me to adapt and see things from new perspectives. It doesn’t offer me a shortcut, it makes me earn success step by step, the long way round, and the hard way up, with nothing but work and persistence to get me through.
I took this persistence to the internet to find solutions to my situation. I asked in every Judo forum I knew, messaged each person who commented or posted on Judo pages in Hong Kong, despite them being written entirely in Cantonese. I searched for key words and sent countless emails. Polite persistence has a strange way of presenting success and by the end of the day a kind stranger had arranged for me to join the Hong Kong National Squad training program.
I might not be the most experienced or talented athlete to step foot on the tatami, but I am one of the most resourceful, the most determined, and the most persistent you will meet. I have been working quietly since I tied my belt for the first time, and when I emerge from the other side having taken the long way round I will be absolutely ready to perform.
I have 100% faith in the process, so see you on the other side.