Countdown to the Olympics with judo star Sophie Johnstone (week one)

As part of the countdown to the Olympics we have a new weekly column from local athletes in the build-up to London 2012.

Friday, 5th August 2011, 10:58 am

This week our local judo star writes her first column.

FIRSTLY, let me introduce myself. My name is Sophie Johnstone, I am 26 years old, I have lived in Southwick all my life, and I am aiming to represent Great Britain at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the sport of judo at the -52kg category.

I started judo when I was seven and began training full-time at 18.

In April last year, I had to face the biggest setback of my career so far when I snapped my ACL while out training in Japan.

The popping sensation I felt in my knee was unlike anything I’d felt before, so I instinctively knew it was bad. After reconstructive surgery, I spent the next 10 months working hard with my physio on my rehab programme and also with my judo coach to help improve my gripping strategies.

The hard work paid off when in April this year, I won gold medals at both the Swiss Open and Sarajevo European Cup.

However, I was deeply disappointed to find the British selectors didn’t consider these results enough to warrant my inclusion in the team for the European Championships.

Since then, I have struggled with a cartilage injury in my other knee, meaning I had to withdraw from two World Cup events.

Subsequently, the amount of funding I received from UK Sport was cut to £416 per month, which is very little considering my monthly rent and training fees alone exceed this amount. On top of that, I need to find the money to self-fund international training camps and tournaments.

However, I have recently returned from a self-funded training camp in Germany, on which I made some really good progress (and got one of my best black eyes ever) and started to feel like I am hitting some form again. So much so, in fact, that I have just booked my flights to return to Berlin for another training camp later this month.

It’s not an easy life being a full-time athlete. It is a bit like a rollercoaster ride, with the occasional highs keeping you going through all the lows. But my Olympic dream is what has driven me since I was eight and the opportunity to compete at the London Olympics next year would make all the sacrifices worthwhile.

To sponsor Sophie, contact her on [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter @sophiejudo