Britain’s Olympic Greats – Nicola Fairbrother MBE

Labour Party

Nicola Fairbrother took home a silver medal in Judo (56kg weight) from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. This was the first year that women were officially able to compete for medals in the sport, 18 years after its first appearance during the Tokyo Games of 1964.

Nicola was one of the first female athletes to compete in judo at Olympic level. Parity between men and women in the range of Olympic events has been a long time coming. At the Barcelona Games of 1992, 159 sports were open for men to compete in whilst there were only 89 in which women could take part. Following the inclusion of women’s boxing in the programme of London 2012, this year will be the first ever Olympics in which women and men can compete in the same range of sports.

Nicola’s silver medal at the Olympics was no mean feat but she just narrowly missed out on the gold. The following year, however, she became world number one when she won the World Title in Hamilton,Canada. Over the course of her 23 year career she also won gold at the European level.

Her performance was also recognised out of the dojo. In 1994 she was awarded an MBE for her contribution to British sport.  She was also named European Judoka of the year in 1993 and was runner up in the Sunday Times Sports Award several times.

Nicola has commented on the benefits of judo in all areas of life from promoting self confidence to developing respect for others. Nicola has praised the accessibility of the sport in that it for anyone of any size or shape; however, she has also raised the issue of the significant costs involved in taking part.

Like many professional sports, judo can be expensive to take part in, especially when youngsters are first starting out. The price of classes and equipment can act as a barrier to potentially successful competitors even trying the sport.

When it came to power in 1997 the Labour government recognised the benefits of access to sport at every level. From the beginning of its tenure it sought to improve the strategic direction of organisations such as Sport England to ensure accessibility for all. 

In 2009, the then Labour government set aside £10.2 million for the development of Judo at the grass-roots level to be channelled into the sport through Sport England over the following four years.

Nicola is a strong supporter of judo at grass-roots level, and is helping to inspire a whole new generation of judokas in her role of owner and editor of Koka Kids magazine, as well as through her work with schools, judo clubs and national governing bodies.

Nicola also now works as a judo commentator for the BBC and reports on the sport for the World of Judo magazine.