Rochdale News | Sports News | Sophie Cox will coach the England judo team at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham

Date published: July 16, 2022

Twenty years ago, an aspiring 19-year-old British judoka received the thrilling letter telling her that she had been selected to represent the England judo team at the XVII Commonwealth Games to be held in Manchester.

Sophie had already achieved elite success at junior-level international competition, winning European bronze, World Schools silver and double gold at junior and senior level at the Belgium Ladies Open.

“The opportunity to compete in home games was exhilarating,” said Sophie, from Rochdale, “and the excitement, the public enthusiasm and the sheer joy of competing in front of family, friends and fellow athletes is an experience I will never forget.”

Now Sophie, who is a 5th Dan Black Belt and Level 4 Sports Coach, is part of a team with Head Coach Luke Preston (Camberley Judo Club Head Coach) and Adam Hall (University of Bath), responsible for overseeing the team’s preparation and eventual performance at the XXII Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

“It has been an interesting, challenging, eventful but enjoyable journey up to this point in my life,” Sophie continued, “and I feel privileged to be part of this talented England team. Judo is not always included in the match calendar, so it’s an opportunity to highlight the sport, a sport that I promote not only at the elite level but with the five years of the Bacup Judo Club.

Sophie continued: “The England team’s all-time judo total for the games currently stands at 28 gold, eight silver and six bronze, and we are confident of improving significantly. this number, even if our great Scottish rivals will push us to our limits.

“But my memories of 20 years ago are not just about winning medals, important as they are for the funding and future development of the sport. Manchester was promoted like the friendlies. I remember a playground buzzing with excitement and fun, and an audience that has given us their wholehearted support.

The disappointment of having lost the semi-final but the relief of having won a bronze medal in front of family, friends and club supporters.

Attending the Opening and Closing Ceremonies with all Commonwealth athletes – the ‘wow’ factor of the whole show!

Many surprise encounters – challenging England rugby sevens coach Joe Lydon with “You won’t remember me…” and his response: “I remember you Sophie from Wembley 1993.” Joe was captain of the victorious Wigan side in the RHFL Cup Final; As a nervous 11 year old, I had just made history by becoming the first girl to play in the U-11 curtain raiser, for Rochdale Schools.

Moment of pleasure with the New Zealand team at seven, meeting with the great Eric Rush. Then I linked up with England RU star Patrick Sanderson, who had been a member of Littleborough RUFC when I captained the U-9s there.

Years later on the balcony of Rochdale Town Hall with Steve Cram to welcome the Queen’s Jubilee Baton entering the square, remembering my younger sister Roz running in the Commonwealth Games Baton Relay from 2002.

Last word from Sophie: “I’m sure I’ll have equally fond memories of Birmingham 2022: Let the games begin!”

Sophie brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her role as a coach, with life experiences that extend beyond the ‘elite bubble’ of national representation. “After finishing seventh at the Athens Olympics, I found out that I didn’t like my fights like I used to,” she explained.

“I went to Thailand for four years, teaching English at the British International School in Phuket, then in a Thai high school. Getting away from the tight and pressured environment of elite sport has given me a different perspective and helped me expand and develop a wide range of skills such as mental resilience, independence, understanding, tolerance, imagination and assertiveness. I use them in coaching at all levels, all abilities, all ages and all genders.

“Coming back to the sport, I felt the thrill of the London Olympics and the disappointment of losing to the eventual gold medalist in the first round. I decided to ‘retire’ in 2013, thinking back to a career as a national champion four times at junior level and seven times at senior level, two European silver medals, two European bronze medals and a competitive record for Great Britain at every major and senior tournament. foreign.

“For six years I then traveled the country and the world delivering seminars and presentations about my experiences in elite sport. I was a sports mentor, worked for Sky Sports Living, Us Girls and the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust I visited schools as part of the government’s initiative to tackle mental health issues I started the first combatant camps in the UK And, in the process of Along the way, I managed to win two professional BJJ titles and three European judo masters titles.

“Coaching at the Commonwealth Games will be a highlight of my career so far. But equally important to me is my training at the Bacup Judo Club with the legendary Brian Moore, of which I have been a member since I was eight years old. This is where it all started – climbing the stairs above the Bacup Library.

“I’m now settled in Rochdale with my fantastic supportive wife Kat, and our seven-year-old son and three-year-old daughter are already on the mat at Bacup under the watchful eye of junior trainer Marie Edwards.

“Since the Covid retirement I have been busy every other weekend for English judo organizing overseas competition trips to destinations such as Spain, Italy and Croatia. A number of promising judokas from Bacup are already in the England squad. Olympic glory might appeal to some, but friendship and fun are there for all.

Ruth J. Leeds