Belfast Telegraph

Commonwealth Games: London setback was a learning curve: Lisa Kearney

By Ali Gordon

Judo sensation Lisa Kearney is adamant that her Olympic nightmare helped her live her Commonwealth dream. Lisa's London 2012 Olympics ended before most competitors had begun, defeated in the first contest of the opening day.

"It was tough but I learned so much from the whole experience," said the Glasgow bronze medallist on her homecoming yesterday.

"I went through two years of qualification for one day in London, regardless of the outcome, and that's hard for anyone.

"I fought well enough and I narrowly lost in golden score but judo's pretty brutal."

However the the 25-year-old west Belfast girl channelled her heartbreak into winning Northern Ireland's first medal of this year's Games.

"London 2012 was a really important time in my career and it was something I've been able to build on and use," she added.

And it's a testament to her character that she bounced back to clinch Northern Ireland's second-ever judo medal.

"I was unlucky not to be in the final in Glasgow," she contended.

"I fought well but there were just some things that didn't go my way that were beyond my control and that was unfortunate."

Accompanied by long-standing coach Ciaran Ward at the Sport Institute Northern Ireland elite training facility at University of Ulster, Jordanstown, it was easy to gauge just how much dedication Kearney has devoted to the gruelling sport.

First coaching Kearney at the age of eight, Ward revealed: "It was very much how she approached things – her attitude, personality and ability to be able to train – that convinced me early on that Lisa could be a real contender on the international judo stage."

Despite winning a bronze medal less than a week ago, the psychology student at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh hasn't had much time to relax and is already looking ahead to another challenge that lies ahead.

"The next few years I'll be really focused on qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympics," she explained.

"In judo, it's a two year process and it's really, really tough so it'll be a long string of events that I'll be competing in so certainly my focus is going to be making Rio and I haven't really thought too much about anything else after that.

"I love what I do but there are some sacrifices and it is tough at times – sometimes it's not fun. But, for the most part, I love what I do and it's days like last Thursday like when I won my medal, that make the sacrifices worth it.

"I've had my fair share of ups and downs and injuries and setbacks so I think it's all those hard times make the big wins even more special."

Belfast Telegraph

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