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Thursday, October 18, 2012
FIRST appearances can be deceiving and that was certainly the case when I met rising judo star, Gemma Moore, at Otley College last week.
The 16-year-old is quiet and unassuming away from the mat, despite being ranked in the top five juniors in Great Britain.
Standing nearly a foot taller and probably weighing almost twice as much, I didn’t feel particularly intimidated when it was suggested I should be thrown about a bit by the teenager – all in the name of sports journalism!
Now I can safely say that size DOESN’T matter as she effortlessly threw me over her shoulder and on to the college gym’s crash mat, before engaging me in an arm lock.
A part-time judo player, the former Debenham High School does not have the luxury of being able to devote all her efforts to the sport – which is a scary proposition.
But that has not stopped her from scooping a Commonwealth Championship silver medal at Under-20s, back in January, while she achieved her first national gold medal at the tender age of ten.
If this is what she is capable of as a part-time athlete, then who knows what she will be able to do at full-time level.
Her target is the 2020 Olympic Games to be held in either Turkey, Japan or Spain.
Achieving such a feat would not only be a proud moment for the pupil, who is studying an extended diploma in Sports Performance Level 3, but also for her family.
Her coach and step-dad David Oates is a GB Judo coach, based at North Lopham, near Diss, and his brother is Colin Oates, who recently finished seventh at the London Games in the summer.
The first aim of Gemma, who has represented GB at cadets level, is to reach the senior GB squad and she will do that if she medals at next January’s British Closed Championships.
“I would like to go to the next Olympics but I think 2016 might come round a bit soon to me in terms of my strength and experience,” she said.
“To get into the GB squad would be a start but it would be nice to follow in Colin’s footsteps too.
“It’s tough at the moment because I am only training twice a week and my peers, the likes of Jemima Duxbury, are a bit older than me and training full time.”
Gemma’s love of judo began at the tender age of four-and-a-half, even though she was not supposed to be taking part in the sport at that age.
The hobby soon became something more serious as she began realising her potential.
“I was four-and-a-half but I told the club that I was five as that was the age I had to be to start,” recalls Gemma, who finished fifth at the British Judo National Championships, in Sheffield, at the weekend.
“I thought it was just going to be a hobby but then my coach took me to a national event and when I won my first gold at the age of 10, I realised that I could take it further.”
Fast-forward to the current day and Gemma is now starting to see other youngsters embark on a similar road to hers.
The youngster believes the Olympics has had a lot to do with that.
“A lot of people were talking about the Olympics has seen quite a few people come back to he sport as well as new juniors taking it up at our club,” added the teenager.