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Judoka Stewart: The best is yet to come

Date: June 25, 2020

Category: Judo

By Victoria Donu

As Great Britain begins to open up after several months of restrictions, judoka are still waiting to get back to full training.

Close proximity to others outside of your household is still not allowed, and gyms and other training facilities remain closed.

European bronze medallist Elliot Stewart is one of several national team members who continue to be guided by their coaches during what has been a challenging period.

Despite the lockdown, the support required to maintain a positive mindset is not just about the physical side of things.“We have weekly video call with the whole team just to catch up and keep everyone updated on our training and thoughts. In this time, we have been training but have been focusing on personal things like completing courses, hitting personal goals and spending time with family. The activities that keep me positive are any type of activity with my family. So, overall this has kept our team motivated.”

While focusing on his training, Stewart is also a father of three and a loving husband which he successfully balances with the support of his team.

“Time is one of the biggest issues I have, I want to be with my family all day and I want to be training on the tatami all day which is impossible. With the help of all the staff at the British Judo Centre of Excellence they have put in place schedule and coping strategies to help with this. With this team behind me I would be able to compete at the level I do, be a father and a husband at the same time. I’m very grateful for this”.

Stewart comes from great stock. His own father Dennis won gold at the Seoul 1988 Olympics, the same year that Stewart was born. He stepped onto the tatami for the first time at the age of four and kept going.

When he was diagnosed with Keratoconous while at university studying to become a physical education teacher, Stewart took a sideways step into visually impaired judo.

He made his debut at the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Judo European Championship in Wallsall, Great Britain, in 2017.

“This was my first visually impaired event and I was fifth. I lost to Ukrainian Oleksandr Nazarenko within the first minute. This was when I realized how professional, great and strong visually impaired judoka are and it set the bar for me as to how I need to train and act within this scene.”

In terms of the Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2021, the British judoka is focusing on his performance. He knows that he needs to improve that rather than think about medals, despite the fact that he reached the podium at two major events in 2019.

As well as European bronze he took home the same colour at the IBSA Judo International Qualifier in Fort Wayne, USA.

“This is a great result and I’m very proud, but I know my best performance is yet to come. I haven’t peaked yet and when I do if all goes to plan I will be standing on the rostrum at the Paralympic Games.

“If I perform well the result will come. If I keep on training the way I’m training now, then I will be in with a chance to became Paralympic champion.”

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