An 11-year-old girl from Galashiels put her fears behind her last week when taking part in the British Judo Championships for 10/11-year-olds held at Glades Leisure Centre in Kidderminster.
Holly Shepherd had a fairytale ending to an exceptionally hard few months, in which her battles with nerves have proved to be just as difficult as those against her opponents.
Three weeks ago, in the Granite-open in Aberdeen, Holly just missed out on a bronze medal after suffering a particularly bad anxiety attack during one of her early rounds. A born fighter, Holly got through it but just missed out on a much longed-for medal. Understandably, she was even more nervous about travelling all the way down to Worcester, England, for the British Championships. But, with the help of her focus coaches, clubmates and family, the courageous youngster won her four fights, clinching the gold medal as well.
Galashiels Academy pupil Holly told The Southern: “It was probably worse than usual going into it as I had never fought at that level before and I didn’t know any of the people I would be fighting or what their tactics would be.
“The nerves make me feel ill and really horrible before a big competition.”
Holly, who has been a member of the Galashiels-based club for the past three years, is now focusing on the Scottish Championships on November 8.
“Hopefully now that I have won the British, I will be better going into the Scottish. I will be coming up against girls I have fought before and I know the competition is tough, but this time I’m ready for it.”
Coach James Hunt (2nd dan), who travelled with Holly and fellow Focus member Ewan Jones to Kidderminster, told us: “We selected Holly and Ewan for this competition because they had been winning medals in open competitions up here and felt they could compete at a higher level.
“It really was a huge step up and they both performed really well considering this was their first time in a British event.
“We worked really hard beforehand on specific aspects of the performances of both players, and in Holly’s case especially, her nerves.
“We introduced a bit of humour into her training to try and snap her out of this nervous state she gets in. It seems to have worked as she really conquered her nerves down south, so we will just have to wait and see now if she can do the same in the Scottish.”
Coming up against really tough opposition, Ewan lost all his fights but competed well.