Potential Olympian judo ace Esme Holgate has been doing her to best to maintain her fitness and skills during the Covid-19 pandemic

Rising judo star Esme Holgate has been keeping herself in shape during lockdown by using her mum as a ‘punchbag’ – so to speak.

Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 11:51 pm
Esme Holgate, left, in action

The 14-year-old Bentham martial arts ace is tipped as a future Olympian having already represented her country and won medals on the international stage as a junior.

Despite her being billed as a real talent of the future, Holgate’s burgeoning career has had to be placed on hold over the past few months as the sporting world comes to terms with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Where as before the coronavirus she would be enjoying lots of sparring with practice partners, training in isolation has become the norm for athletes such as herself who are either at elite and development level.

Still very much developing her skills in the hope that she will one day be able to compete at the highest level, Holgate has been doing her best to maintain her fitness levels and skills – even calling in the help of her mum Cherry to help.

Fortunately, she also has her dad to call upon, who is also judo player.

“I feel that my fitness levels haven’t suffered at all since lockdown,” said Holgate, who attained the level of brown belt since taking up the sport at the age of eight.

“But I am really missing actual judo practice with other students.

“My technique practice is certainly suffering like every other judo player.

“My dad does judo and has become my regular partner, I’ve even got my mum to put on a suit to help me practice.

“But she says I frighten her, and she hates being thrown but she still does it to help me. I make sure I’m in bed before 11pm each day and I’m still very much monitoring what I eat to fuel my body and to make sure I’m competition ready as soon as prime minister Boris Johnson gives the thumbs up.

Holgate admits her life has changed dramatically over the last few months.

She had been working towards being in tip-top shape for upcoming tournaments on the continent.

Indeed Earlier this year she had got the better of Great Britain’s No.1 junior Mae Bostock, who is four years her senior.

“I was in a really good head space after that win,” said Holgate.

“I was training really hard when Boris made his statement telling the country that we had to go into lockdown.

“I was working towards four National and International Judo competitions.

“The flights and hotels had been booked for competitions in Ireland, Belgium and Sweden.

“I was committed to intense training programmes to make me fight ready.

“But my routine of training and going to school – which normally operates like a military operation – so structured and disciplined just stopped like switching off a light switch.

My initial feeling was one of devastation as the imminent competitions I’d been preparing for were cancelled.

“It was a shame because I was in great mental and physical shape.

“I’d had a fantastic year of success and I was feeling confident.

“I felt cheated out of my chance to compete.

“The first few days in lockdown felt surreal and like so many others I watched the news endlessly alarmed and yet somewhat fascinated about what was going on in the world.

“My brother had to come home from University and for the first time in a long-time my family were all home together. I can’t remember how long it’s been since I’d had so much spare time and within a few days I was restless and bored despite the weather being great.

“My life for years has been so structured and organised, and I missed this almost immediately but with the help of school, my coaches and parents I quickly created a new routine that allowed my life to continue despite all the restrictions.”

Holgate , who was just eight-years-old when she first went to Sweden to compete, revealed that she has had to use all of her imagination to keep on top of her training.

Her grandmother has stables – one of which she has turned into a temporary dojo.

“I’m quite fortunate that I’ve turned one of my nana’s stables into a dojo and kitted it out with judo mats, weights and a rope to climb and this has been invaluable for me to have two online judo sessions a day which usually last for two hours,” said Holgate, who hails from a small village called Bentham, close to Lancaster.

“The judo world has really come together in these unusual times and coaches from all over the country are holding sessions for students to access.

“This week I’ve been selected as one of 15 to train online with our current Olympian Eric Ham which is a fantastic opportunity for me.

“On average I’m training between three and four hours a day.

“Being in Lockdown has its negatives, the isolation, I miss my friends and family members, but it’s had its positives too.

“I’ve spent real quality time with my family, but I’ve realised how much I need structure in my life and that I enjoy goals and direction, being busy makes me happy.

“I think judo competitions and normal training won’t happen till next year now as it’s a contact sport and a sport that you can’t distance from each other.

"Training six days a week as usual and staying focused on life after Covid-19 will give me the best chance of continuing my judo journey and to continue fighting for my country.”