Road to Rio: Karina Bryant to shine for the Oceania’s
London 2012 Olympic Bronze medallist, Karina Bryant served British Judo for over two decades. Throughout her career, Karina won a total number of 21 European and World medals…and she is not done yet. Bryant will be also one to watch on the way to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games but this time she will be representing Australia.
Karina started judo at the age of 10. It was the results of moving to a different area. “My mum was worried and she wanted me to do some sort of martial arts, so we signed up for judo in Hersham, South of England.” – recalled four times Olympian, Bryant.
Not long after, at the age of 14, when Karina decided to have judo as her life. “We had visitors at my old club. It was the GB women’s team and they all had nice flashy tracksuits and judo kits and they all had the Olympic rings engraved in them. That was the moment when I decided I wanted to be one of them” – she remembered.
“Judo has been my life and I don’t think it will ever change”
Karina won seven Senior European medals, however it was the Gold medal final in 1998 which she remains the best moment in her memory. KB: “The reason that it is the most memorable for me is because that year I was still a Junior and I won the Senior Europeans before I would win the Junior. It was a big achievement for me. Moreover, in the final I had a Spanish girl (Raquel Barrientos), and the event was in Spain, in Oviedo too, so I had a full stadium against me. When I threw her in the final the crowd went silent in less than a second… you could hear a pin drop. It was incredible, but then they clapped and appreciated to see good judo.”
The year of 1998 brought more success as Bryant was awarded the IJF junior female judoka of the year after winning her second Junior World title. Mentioning the Worlds, Bryant also strived for several successes throughout her carrier with winning a total number of seven senior World medals. However, it is the 2009 World Championships in Rotterdam she likes to recall.
KB: “After the 2008 Beijing Games many people turned their back on me and thought I was too old to carry on judo. I lost all my funding and support but not my motivation and hunger for success. Winning the silver medal meant everything to me and was enough to prove I am not done with Judo yet.”
Karina Bryant announced her retirement not long after the London 2012 Games. What happened since? KB: “I always knew I wasn’t finished but I knew I needed a bit of normality and have my family around me.” “Winning the bronze medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games left me with mixed feelings. I was relieved that I finally achieved what I was working hard for but the same time it made me hungrier. As a judoka you don’t lose the edge of beating yourself. “ – she added.
The majority of her career in the United Kingdom was spent at Camberley Judo Club (CJC). 22 years out of Judo out of 24 shows her loyalty to her club and certainly cannot be forgotten just overnight. How would you describe your overall experience as a British player? KB: “It was definitely a massive honour. I represented Team GB at four Olympics and won many other titles. No doubt, honour doesn’t come without sacrifice and I did sacrifice a lot… part of it was not seeing my family at all.”
Karina’s family moved to Australia shortly after the Sydney Olympic Games. Since then, she would see them once in every two years if so, but most likely to be even rarely. “At the time it was hard but I had CJC as my family and had loads of support from them and my coach. It is never easy, but you just have to get on with it and put judo first. If anything, I will really miss my club.”
Is that the answer than to your decision of changing the country you will represent at the 2016 OG? “Yes; I have done everything I could to achieve my best during my time I lived in the UK, so I am leaving with no emptiness behind. There are things in life you cannot replace or rewind back, for instance seeing your niece or nephew learning how to swim. I need some normality in my life and quality time with my family whilst reaching towards another Olympics.” – she explains.
Karina will be heading to her fifth Olympic Games. Only five people in the Judo World have ever done five Olympic Games. Bryant revealed, in Rio she will do her best and aiming to match or do better than in 2012.
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