Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Lisa Kearney will use London 2012 experience to win judo medal in Rio

Belfast judo star Lisa Kearney believes she can be a medal prospect when the next Olympics take place in Rio in 2016.

Kearney was disappointed, but not disheartened, after losing her last 16 contest at London 2012 to Shugen Wu from China.

There was much to admire in the performance of the 23-year-old, competing for Ireland at the weekend against her highly ranked opponent as she only lost in the sudden death ‘Golden Score' — extra-time — after drawing the five minute 48kg contest.

Kearney, the first Irish woman to fight in her sport in the Games, proved immensely popular with the thousands crammed into the ExCeL Arena in east London with at one stage the auditorium reverberating to chants of “Lisa, Lisa, Lisa, Lisa”.

The look of pride on the faces of Kearney's mum, dad and brother were evident as the British fans got right behind the west Belfast girl in the hope that she would create a shock.

Unfortunately it wasn't to be for Kearney, who had levelled things up with just 13 seconds left, the victim of an Ippon throw which automatically ended the battle and her Olympic hopes.

“It was a close fight and I was disappointed to lose but there are plenty of things I'll take from this experience and learn from in the future,” said Kearney.

“I want to compete in more Olympics and Rio 2016 is in my thinking.

“I do think I could be a medal prospect in the future.

“I feel I have the ability and having gained this experience it will stand me in good stead.

“I love judo and I'm doing this believing I can be a medal prospect later in my career.”

Kearney revealed that the nerves started to fray on Saturday morning ahead of her first Olympics when she entered the stadium.

“I felt quite calm about it when I woke up but as soon as I got to the stadium the nerves kicked in,” she said. “I had a look round the stadium before my fight when the arena started to fill up.

“There were a mixture of feelings from nerves to excitement, but I felt I dealt with everything well especially with this being my first time at the Olympics.

“It took me two years of qualifying to get here which used up a massive amount of physical, mental and emotional energy,” Kearney added.

“Then there was the preparing for the tournament itself and my contest.

“Now I want to have some down time and recover and rest and take in the whole experience of the Olympic Games.

“I'm delighted I was involved on the first day because now I can take in everything else and that will be important in helping me in the future.

“There are so many things going on around you in an Olympics that aren't usually there at other events so being able to see all that will mean I know exactly what to expect the next time.”

The psychology student at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, who intends supporting her Irish team-mates in London over the next fortnight, added: “I'll go home to Belfast on August 13 and relax for a while and university starts up again in September and then next year I'll be going for all the big tournaments.”

As for that incredible support and the chanting of her name, Sports Institute Northern Ireland athlete Lisa said: “I could hear it and it really pushed me on.

“My parents, brother, auntie, uncle and cousins were over watching me which was great,” she said.

“There were also friends of our family and lots of people from Irish judo and I really appreciated their support and that of the British fans in the crowd.

“It was amazing,” she added.

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