One of the great things about the Olympics is the opportunity it provides for sports with lesser media coverage to take top billing. Karina Bryant began practising Judo at the age of 10 in Camberley Judo Club in Surrey. This was where she earned her black belt and where she continues to train to this day.
Karina enjoyed success in Judo early on taking silver at the Junior European Championships in 1995 before going on to become Junior World Champion in both 1996 and 1998.
Since then, Karina has won over 20 major medals including six at the World Championships and four European Championships golds.
Karina’s success led, in 2003, to inclusion named European Female Judo Player of the Year. This in turn led to her being named in the Sunday Times’ top ten sportswomen of the year. She gained further recognition in 2004 when she was named as one of the top 100 unsung inspirational heroines by the Daily Mail.
Karina did not have much success at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, going out in the first round. Later that same year she suffered a serious neck injury and had to go through a great deal of rehabilitation to recover.
She made her triumphant return during the 2009 World Championships in Rotterdam, claiming the silver medal. Karina narrowly lost in the final to Chinese fighter and reigning world champion Tong Wen. What made this even more extraordinary was that it was thought that she would not even be able to compete in the competition due to her injury and only joined the 14-strong British team at the last minute.
Karina was Britain’s only medalist inRotterdam and said at the time: ‘I feel great. I had a good year because I did not expect to be here. I am very happy.’
Karina Bryant is clearly a favourite to take home a medal at London 2012. I hope to see her in the final against her old rival Tong Wen, the current Olympic champion in this category, where I’m sure she’ll use her home advantage to turn the tables and take the gold.