In the Women’s 48kg judo competition at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, Amy Platten competed in the Bronze medal contest match against Harriet Bonface of Malawi, where she won the Bronze medal for her Commonwealth Games debut for Team England. Last year, Amy won Bronze at the European U23 Championships in Budapest, and during her career so far, her achievements have included Bronze at the Dubrovnic European Cup in Croatia and becoming champion in 2017 at the European Youth Olympic Festival. Amy is coached by her father, who himself was a judoka, and having recently returned from Australia, where she won Silver at a Continental Open, Amy is looking to pick up qualifying points at competitions next year in the hope of competing at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games for Team GB. Talking with us, Amy told us about making her Commonwealth Games debut for Team England at Birmingham this year, winning the Bronze medal contest match at the Games and becoming champion at the European Youth Olympic Festival in 2017.
How did you find the experience making your Commonwealth Games debut earlier this year in Birmingham and how was it finding out you’d been selected for Team England?
One of my objectives before 2022 was to qualify for the Commonwealth Games (CWG) for Team England. However, I picked up a knee injury early in the year which meant that I could not compete, and my World Ranking dropped to a level I knew I would not be selected for the CWG. I had pushed CWG to the back of my mind and was fully concentrating on my final exams for my BSC Neuroscience degree. I literally finished my last exam on 31st May and later that day received an email informing me of my selection. It made this competition that bit more special because even attending was a bonus to me.
What was the atmosphere like competing in front of a home crowd for a major international multi-sports event and how was it staying in the Birmingham athletes village?
There is no greater feeling than competing in front of a home crowd. There were so many people that came that had contributed to my judo career that would not have watched live if it had not been in England. The athletes village was a fantastic multi-national and multi-sports and really wholesome team environment. I don’t think words will truly describe the atmosphere I was fortunate enough to experience.
You won the Bronze medal in the Women’s 48kg judo competition, how did this feel?
If I am honest, I was disappointed to lose the Semi-Final to the South African, I aimed for Gold, as does every athlete, I’m sure. But to be able to refocus and still continue on to win the Bronze fight did finish the competition on a high. I am still very proud of myself.
What was it like competing in the Bronze medal contest match against Harriet Bonface from Malawi and how did you prepare for the match?
I put everything into the Semi-Final, and to lose the chance to fight for Gold did crush me. I let all the emotion out and cried to my dad (he’s been my coach since I started judo). He told me I needed to let it go and to reset for the Bronze fight. In judo, the Semi-Final loser fights the person who lost in previous rounds and has successfully fought through the Repechage. So, I had to recover my mindset from a loss while my opponent had just come from a win. There was a long break to the medal fight which I do think was good, it gave me a chance to reset and really made me determined to win the Bronze, and that I was going to put everything into this last fight. I had a game plan that once I got my grip, I just needed to blast in an attack. Luckily enough, my simple game plan paid off and I threw my opponent and won in 15 seconds. Then the positive emotions flooded back, as did the crowd’s cheers.
How was it attending the opening/closing ceremony and what are some of your stand-out highlights from representing Team England at this year’s Commonwealth Games?
I definitely wanted to enjoy the whole experience, including the opening ceremony. A home Games really can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. However, I was also aware I was fighting within a matter of days. But I went to the opening ceremony, wore the red and white England colours, and even made it on TV (for a split second, just about). It was truly incredible, doing the lap around the stadium and really embracing the feeling of earning my place there. Definitely a stand-out memory I’ll never forget. I did leave a bit earlier though, a 10pm bed is a non-negotiable for me.
Last year, you won Bronze at the European U23 Championships in Budapest, can you tell us about your time competing at this competition?
I lost over a year (my last year as a junior) to injury then COVID-19 hit just as I was in great form and prepared to fight at a major junior Europeans and Worlds. With all the restrictions, it was hard to get quality training, but I adapted and just trained the best I could. In Budapest, I really felt focused, I was sharp on the basics and kept to my game plans. At this level no fight is easy, I beat a strong French athlete, then a much-favoured Russian to win my pool. I unfortunately lost my Semi-Final fight to a Serbian player who went on to win the competition. So, I was in a similar position to the CWG fighting for Bronze. I was not as disappointed to be in the Bronze fight though as it had been so long after injury and COVID since being in a major medal fight. Again, I had a strong strategy and felt in control of the fight, three-and-a-half minutes into the fight I had an opening and threw for ippon. It was definitely one of my most special medals because it really gave back the confidence I lost with injuries and lack of training in COVID times.
What was the Dubrovnik European Cup like to compete in and how was it winning Bronze?
Although European Cups are not major medals, they are still hard competitions. Fighting in Croatia always has a special feeling for me as my mother is Croatian and I holiday and train there almost every year. Again, Bronze! Luckily the learned resilience of losing fights and being able to come back and win a medal does build up and help you break into the finals. I experienced a similar process as a Cadet Player (under 18 years).
What are some of your favourite memories from the European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) in 2017, which saw you be crowned the champion?
This was my final competition as a Cadet. I had won five Bronze medals and one Silver. A month earlier I had fought in the European Bronze fight and lost, the competition was just too close to my GCSEs and I was not as prepared as I would have liked. However, the extra time for EYOF allowed me to be that much stronger and sharper. Like CWG, it was also a multi-sport event and I still keep in touch with some gymnasts that competed there too. I fought well to get to the Final and had to fight a Hungarian player… in Hungary. The crowd was loud for the home favourite who had beaten me in my only Final earlier that year. I definitely had to use the energy of the crowd to fuel me. Winning Gold at EYOF has definitely been a highlight for me throughout my career.
Can you tell us about some of the other competitions you’ve been part of over the years and what would you say are some of your stand-out career highlights?
I have been competing since nine years old, each level there is an age and experience differential. Just as you reach the top of the group you move up to an older age group and wider demographic. My dad would take me to compete nearly every weekend, all over the UK. Once I started to win these, I started to compete in Europe winning medals there too. I love to compete in the British Nationals and I have won this at all age levels. I have literally a suitcase full of medals but the special ones are: National Champion at Pre-Cadet, Cadet, Junior and Senior. EYOF Gold, U23 European Bronze, CWG Bronze, European Open Bronze, and just recently, I won a Silver at the Oceania Open in Australia.
Where does your love of judo come from and how did you start?
I have always been competitive and loved sport. My dad used to compete in judo and I wanted to try it. He didn’t want to take me too young in case I got bored, so until I was nearly nine I did swimming and netball. When my dad gave in from me begging to start, he took me to a local club in my area and I just loved it. My dad got a bit itchy as a spectator so while I was starting judo, he started his coaching training and took over training me. As hard as judo is (and trust me, it is hard) I do love the physicality, the problem solving, the competition and finding a way to beat opponents. You have to love this sport to stay in it, it demands too much otherwise.
What is a typical training day for you and how does your training change in the lead-up to a major competition?
There are so many different components to judo training you cannot really fit all in one day. So some days we will do one to two-hour technical training going through techniques, have a break then do similar amount of strength and conditioning. Other days I would do one to two hours of Randori (fighting practice) then S&C etc. I will also do additional running, swimming and yoga depending on what sort of training block we are in. Leading up to a competition, I need to get a greater load of fights and S&C, but as this gets closer I lessen the fighting and concentrate on drills and fitness. Our calendar changes more times than I can count.
Have you been given any advice throughout your time as a judoka so far that has stuck with you and what advice would you give a new judoka starting out?
For those starting out, you must enjoy it and losing is part of the process. For those pushing on, as a general rule when you are doing something challenging you should have a rough balance of thirds. A third of the time you will feel great, a third of the time just ok, and a third of the time you might feel a bit down. If your feelings are not roughly like this then something might need to change. For example, if you are too happy you may not be challenging yourself enough, or if you are constantly feeling down or burnt out, maybe you need a break, or reduce the load. Lots of people give advice but very few know what it means to do elite sport, there are a lot of sacrifices.
Is there anything you enjoy most about being involved with sports and competing in judo?
It’s all about the challenge, setting goals and trying to reach those goals. While being a full-time elite athlete in one of the most widely contested Olympic sports, I also chose to do a Neuroscience degree. It was honestly the hardest three years of my life, it came with a lot of stress and tears. But it was also one of the best things I have done. I ended up with a First Class Degree, U23 European Bronze, National Championships Gold and a Bronze at a home Commonwealth Games, all in my third and final year at university. I know for a fact my tutor was seriously concerned if I was giving myself any actual break. But I do love to challenge myself and push myself to my limits. I just wasn’t satisfied doing only sport or only academia. The balance of that really worked for me.
How do you like to spend your time away from judo and do you have any favourite sports to watch?
Time has been a very precious commodity with training and studying. Now I have finished my degree, I really appreciate time away from everything. I love reading, walking and going to coffee shops. Things younger me would probably find very boring. I definitely learnt that boredom can be a luxury.
I don’t really follow other sports but I do tend to watch major events, FA Cup Final, Wimbledon, Olympics and World Cups in Rugby.
Do you have any competitions coming up or have any that you are targeting that you can tell us about?
The next two years is all about the Paris 2024 Olympics. Every competition I am entering are potential points. Being the best in Britain does not qualify you for the Olympics. I’ve just recently returned from Australia where I picked up a Silver at a Continental Open. I’m not 100% sure which events I will be competing in next year but hopefully I can go and perform at some major competitions to pick up some qualifying points.
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