- Date: 18-09-2019
- Related to: Judo
By Sam Harris | For IBSA
Great Britain’s Jack Hodgson is aiming for a strong competition at the upcoming International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Grand Prix in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, as he looks to secure his place at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
The last Grand Prix of 2019 and one of the final qualifiers ahead of Tokyo, it will run from 23-24 September.
The 20-year-old, despite recovering from a torn MCL, is still determined to compete as he knows the long-term importance: “I can’t really afford to miss this competition and it will be a really good test to see where I am at, with all the top guys being there.”
Born with Usher syndrome – a rare hereditary condition that means he has been profoundly deaf for most of his life and also has tunnel vision – Hodgson took up judo whilst growing up on a British Royal Air Force camp aged just six years old.
He began training full-time at the British Judo Centre of Excellence in 2015 which has benefited him as he looks to ensure his place on the Tokyo 2020 team.
He has had a solid year, until his injury a couple of weeks ago, competing in various competitions including the IBSA Judo European Championships where he won bronze, the Fort Wayne 2019 International Qualifier in the USA and the Baku Grand Prix in Azerbaijan.
Hodgson has recently returned from Japan where he took part in a holding camp to acclimatise to the arenas and the culture.
The over 100kg judoka was impressed by how the locals acknowledge his impairment: “They are very aware of visually impaired people, making the underground accessible so we will know what to expect when we go for the Games.”
Japan is seen as a naturally strong judo nation as the birthplace of the sport. It also takes the event seriously, as Hodgson commented: “Wherever I went there were signs for the Paralympics which is unusual, in Brazil it was like it was just a bit extra from the main Olympic event.
“Also, they both have very different cultures as Brazil was a party-like atmosphere for all the athletes but in Japan they will obviously be mostly supporting their own competitors.”
Hodgson was one of the youngest participants at Rio 2016 at just 18-years-old but he had already shown his quality on the international stage.
In 2015 he won silver at the IBSA World Games in Seoul, South Korea, and a bronze each from his European Championships debut and World Cup (now known as Grand Prix) in Eger, Hungary.
“Words can’t describe how much Paralympic sport has changed since I started. As recognition grew so did the funding and countries who previously couldn’t afford to run teams are now able to,” he said
The British Paralympic squad also train with their sighted counterparts. Hodgson says he would “wager on our guys holding their own.”
For now though, Hodgson will only be focused on the road to Tokyo and securing a first Paralympic medal.