DARTFORD (Reuters) - Sophie Cox is no stranger to breaking new ground.
The first female to play rugby league at London’s Wembley Stadium has now got her heart set on making history again by winning Britain’s first Olympic judo gold medal.
“I always like doing things a little differently, being a bit unconventional,” she told Reuters at the British judo training centre in Dartford, just outside London.
“I‘m always looking for something different and to be the first gold medal that Britain has had in the judo would be amazing.”
Back in 1993 and aged just 11, she sent shockwaves through the sport of rugby league with her controversial appearance in a match for “schoolboys” at Wembley, a curtain-raiser to the showpiece English Challenge Cup final.
“It does feel like it was just yesterday. It was just an event that happened in my life but now looking back I‘m actually ‘wow that’s really good’,” said the 29-year-old, whose father had got her involved in rugby league, popular in the northwest of England where she hails from.
“I just started playing at the local club when I was eight-years-old and it was great, I loved it. I must just like rolling around in mud or something,” she laughed.
Having turned her focus to judo, she competed at the Athens Olympics in 2004 before turning her back on the sport.
But after five years in Thailand, teaching English and dabbling with Thai boxing, the chance of competing in London lured her out of retirement.
“There was a feeling of unfinished business. I felt like I had lot to give, I hadn’t fulfilled all the things I wanted to do and one of the things was winning a major medal,” she said.
“Obviously the Games being in London was too good an opportunity not to try to go for it again.”
She acknowledged it had been very hard to return to the level of performance needed to compete.
“I‘m feeling ready to put in a good performance and I think if I do I can beat anybody on the day, so I’ll definitely be looking for a medal,” she said.
“I know when stepping on that mat it will be the proudest feeling I could hope for.”
Editing by Mark Meadows