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Soldier fighting for Commonwealth Games bronze medal

A British Army soldier will be fighting for the Bronze Medal in the Women’s +78 kg Judo of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games later today.

Earlier today Corporal Sarah Hawkes competed in the quarter final Judo round at the Coventry Arena where she fought against Team Australia’s Abigail Paduch. Sarah then went on to fight Dianah Kana of Team Kenya.

After beating Team Kenya on an Ippon, the maximum score which is compared to a knockout punch in boxing, Sarah has made it through to the Bronze Medal fight against Sydnee Andrews of New Zealand.

I wouldn’t have made it to the Commonwealth Games without the support I’ve had from the Army... Corporal Sarah Hawkes

Originally from Omagh, County Tyrone, Sarah, 32, is a full-time athlete who is representing Northern Ireland. She says she would never have made it to the Commonwealth Games without the Army’s support.

Sarah took up judo, aged eight, in her local Omagh Judo Club.She joined the Army in 2012 and served first in Germany, where she started competing in the Judo Bundesliga, and then in Aldershot. In November 2016 she stopped doing her Army role to train full-time at the GB Centre of Excellence in Walsall.

When a severe hamstring injury put her out of action in 2018, the Army fully supported her recovery and rehab, allowing her to train and work part-time and providing accommodation.

At Commonwealth Games qualification events in Romania and Senegal, Sarah won two bronze medals, both of which carry world ranking points. Medalling at Romania has put her on the Olympics qualification list.

Sarah says,

“I wouldn’t have made it to the Commonwealth Games without the support I’ve had from the Army, as I simply wouldn’t have been able to train as much as the people I’m competing against. It’s thanks to my unit, who saw my potential and encouraged me to develop, that I pull off the results I do.

“You pick up great transferable skills in judo that can be easily applied to life in the Army. With judo it’s about being robust, very physically fit, disciplined and having a competitive streak and all those qualities are needed to succeed in the Army. Sportspeople make very good soldiers and soldiers make very good sportspeople.

“I’m particularly proud to represent Northern Ireland. When I compete on an international stage it’s normally to represent Great Britain, which I am proud to do, but with the Commonwealth Games it’s the only chance I get to represent my country.

“All my friends and family are coming over. They’ve followed my success from the side lines for years. I got into judo because I had a bit of bother at school and was being bullied, so my mum suggested I try it out to boost my confidence, and it worked. My mum, brother and sister all did it with me.

“I’m ecstatic about participating and beaming with pride. I’m obviously nervous because I don’t want to let Northern Ireland down, I want to do the best I can. I also feel really proud to represent the Armed Forces, specifically the Royal Military Police and my corps, who have pulled out all the stops to support me.

“I’m feeling very hopeful for a medal. I’ve had a bit of an injury but I’ll do the best I can and hopefully I’ll be taking something back. Every athlete’s dream is competing at the Olympics, but for the moment competing at these Games is a dream itself.”