Davis: Tokyo heartbreak transformed my Olympic ambitions - and shifted goalposts to Paris 2024

Sportsbeat
·4-min read
The 2014 Commonwealth champion had her Tokyo ambitions ripped away after a concussion suffered in 2019
The 2014 Commonwealth champion had her Tokyo ambitions ripped away after a concussion suffered in 2019

NEKODA DAVIS' Tokyo heartbreak has remoulded her Olympic ambitions and the Games romantic says she's relishing a crack at gold in the City of Love, writes Will Jennings.

Walsall judoka Davis had her summer ambitions ruthlessly ripped away as she was forced to withdraw from selection because of a concussion suffered in 2019.

The 2014 Commonwealth champion, who competes in the -57kg category, says the long-term impact of the injury was exacerbated by sustaining a second knock while training in lockdown.

Davis, 27, always planned to bow out with a gold medal on the Japanese mat and pursue pastures new in the coaching and mentoring world.

But her Tokyo 2020 setback has transformed her sporting goals and Davis, a 2018 World Championship silver medallist, says the wheels for Paris 2024 are firmly in motion.

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Davis, who trains at Walsall's British Judo Centre of Excellence, said: "It was literally one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make, because this was what I'd been working towards for the last eight years.

"The only way I can describe it was grief. It was like losing someone really close to you. When something is your life and you've made it your goal for so long, it was really hard to make that decision.

"It was risk vs reward - do I push on in the current climate and get another injury that would end my career, or do I actually say that it's only three years until the next Olympics?

"I planned on winning a medal in Tokyo and that would have sealed the end of my goals - and everything that I wanted to achieve in the sport.

"I had massive aspirations for after Tokyo to do other things, so that was the plan. But having lost a year - that's what it feels like - I'm like: Commonwealth Games is only next year in Birmingham, and then the Paris Games will be in 2024.

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"To be honest, it's added years to my career because I genuinely was planning to stop after Tokyo. I've pushed through this year and I'm already looking to new goals and potentially going on to the Paris cycle.

"Everything happens for a reason, and it just opened my eyes to that you can set more goals."

Davis discovered her love of judo as she was growing up in London before catapulting herself into the global spotlight at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Then a fresh-faced 21-year-old, she toppled home favourite Stephanie Inglis in the Glasgow final before going on to scoop World Championship medals - bronze and silver - in 2017 and 2018.

Davis was hotly-tipped for a medal in Japan this summer but, having suffered a concussion in December 2019, sustained another knock in lockdown to crush her Tokyo hopes.

That setback has broadened her horizons and ‘maternal' Davis, who harbours wider ambitions away from the mat, believes the long-term future looks bright.

Davis scaled the dizzy Commonwealth heights by winning gold as a fresh-faced 21-year-old at Glasgow 2014
Davis scaled the dizzy Commonwealth heights by winning gold as a fresh-faced 21-year-old at Glasgow 2014

Speaking on a Zoom call with three aspiring athletes - all supported by a partnership between Entain, owner of Ladbrokes and Coral, and SportsAid - ahead of International Women's Day, Davis added: "I think it's a lot harder for women to have both a family and a career as well.

"I've definitely put that off, but it's a sacrifice you make. I'm very maternal, and I've no doubt I probably would have been a mum by now, but I've put things on hold because of my sport and to chase my other dreams.

"Hopefully I'm still young enough and have time to do it all. There's lots to do. I still feel very young and there's still a lot out there for me."

Entain, owner of Ladbrokes and Coral, is proud to be championing the next generation of British sporting heroes by providing talented young athletes with financial support and personal development opportunities in partnership with SportsAid. As part of this three-year partnership, Entain are supporting a diverse group 50 of UK athletes per year from a variety of spots and para-sports. Visit entaingroup.com to find out more