- 20 Aug 08, 07:16 AM
Athlete's Village, Beijing
I've left it a few days partly because I have been busy in the village food hall piling on the pounds!
But mostly because I wanted to gather my thoughts and not rush into writing anything too quickly.
I suppose I should get right down to business and let you know how I feel about my performance and the 81kg weight category.
Everyone who knows me will know that I am absolutely gutted not to come away from these Games with a medal.
All my final preparations had gone well and I was relaxed and confident on the morning of the competition.
My first fight was tight and scrappy against an Argentinean who I have fought in training but never in competition. I knew that he was an aggressive gripper and a dangerous first-round fight who has some very explosive throwing ability.
The plan was to keep it tight, get into the match and then try to dominate once I was set in the fight. I did all of the above and although I never like to win by such a close margin I was happy to get the first one in the bag and move on.
My second fight against Attaff of Morocco was again going to be difficult; he is a strong awkward opponent who I narrowly defeated in Paris for bronze earlier in the year. Again I was unspectacular but did enough to make it to the quarter-final and another fight with Roman Gontyuk.
The Ukrainian was reigning Olympic silver medallist and is renowned for his big scoring ability and massive counter attacks but also for a lack of condition towards the end of a hard fight.
I had lost to him in Armenia late last year by a small score but had beaten him by waza ari and yuko in the 2007 Super World Cup in Moscow and the plan was to do the same as before, push the pace but not do anything stupid in the early part of the fight to give him the opportunity to score big with a counter.
Unfortunately as the Scottish poet Rabbie Burns said: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft a-gley ("even the best plans can go wrong" for all those south of the border!), and just as I felt Gontyuk was beginning to tire he scored a yuko which changed the complexion of the match.
I had to chase the score and thinking back (I have not watched any footage of any of my fights so this is all my personal recollections of the matches) I probably spent around 90 seconds of a crucial spell mid-fight reverting to fighting at his pace. This cost me and by the time I started to push the pressure it was too late.
My dreams of being Olympic champion were in tatters.
I had to pick myself up for the repechage though and knew that there was still a long way and a lot of hard work to go if I was to be on that rostrum.
After beating Valles of Columbia I was to face Tiago Camillo of Brazil, the reigning world champion in the final of the repechage. Tiago is a master technician and tactician and I just couldn't safely get two hands on him for long enough to develop my own techniques.
When I went down a waza ari to his left uchi mata I knew I had to throw everything at him but again he was elusive enough to stay out of danger and I could only manage to pull back a yuko in penalties.
My big chance came with an ashi waza close to the end when I was trying to pile on the pressure - I caught him clean but lost control of the top half of the body and he turned out.
My competition was over and I walked off the mat and out of the arena knowing that the lights had gone out on my Beijing Olympic dream.
Exiting the stadium I had to deal with the unusual sight of TV, radio and newspaper journalists desperate to hear how I felt about the day that had ended just seconds beforehand.
I don't really remember what I said or what I was asked as I think the realisation was only beginning to hit but I imagine I probably said one or all of the following.
That I had not managed to finish any of my fights by ippon which I had done in all my previous major championship successes.
That I was completely and utterly devastated to have lost.
That all my preparation had gone well.
That I am 100% certain that I will continue fighting to London 2012 and that between now and then I will endeavour to do anything possible to make sure I will realise my dream and be on the rostrum there in four years.
If these are indeed what I said then I would stand by them fully. I didn't score big enough on any of my opponents and fighting in that mediocre way was not enough to put me on the rostrum.
There is no one else to look at, no one else to blame, no one else to take the fall. In this game there is only you on the mat and only you who can perform and put things right. I did not do that and I apologise to those of you who got up at the break of dawn to live that journey with me.
One of the things that I have always said is that if I have prepared as hard as I possibly could and can walk on to that mat knowing that I could not have done more to put myself in a position to strive for that medal then I cannot ask more of myself.
I am proud of the work that I did to get to the Games in the physical and mental shape that I did and I want to say a massive thank you to everyone that helped me to do that. You are too numerous to mention but you all know who you are.
I could not come up with the answers on the day but I hope it was clear for everyone to see that I would die trying.
At this point I would like to say congratulations to Ole Bischoff, Kim Jae Bum, Roman Gontyuk and Tiago Camillo. There is an enormous amount of respect amongst the players in the 81kg category as we all know what it takes to reach the heights at this enormously competitive division.
Ole is truly a gentleman, a fine Olympic champion and a great ambassador for our sport.
Since the finish of the event I have been going through what Matt and I term "the demons". They are the thoughts that keep you awake at night, the questions that you ask over and over again, the gnawing, growing feeling of emptiness that losing leaves you as a wee present to keep you company over the days and weeks.
My way of dealing with them? There is no way!
There are days like yesterday when everything feels fine only for the demons to hit you and stop you in your tracks. Yesterday it happened in the village gym while I was on the bike. One second I was listening to the music feeling fine, the next I realised I was not even cycling anymore but was just sat with my head stooped over the bike bars.
You just have to move on. Decide what is going to improve you as a judoka, as an athlete and set your mind to making sure you make those things happen.
In the mean time Clarky and I have been busying ourselves trying to at least take some positives from our Olympic experience.
We have been out and about cheering on our fellow Team GB athletes at a number of venues across the city.
We have watched a masterful display by the men's four at the rowing, cheered on the hockey girls in the pouring rain, screamed at the top of our voices for David Price and Tony Jeffries at the boxing and sat as two of the thousands fans at the magnificent Bird's Nest Stadium.
I have to say that as a massive sports fan and proud member of Team GB it is an absolute honour to be able to sit and watch each and every one of you competing at the very pinnacle of your sports. I feel truly privileged to be a part of this great team.
Of course huge congratulations go out to all of our medallists. The domination in the pool, on the water and especially in the velodrome has been astounding.
Finally I am sure that people may want me to give comment on the judo team performance as a whole. I think it is obvious that we are devastated not to be bringing you home any medals.
Certainly two seventh places was not what we came here for. However I will leave each individual to let you know how they feel, I cannot speak for them; I can only just about put down on paper how I feel about me.
And with that the demons hit again. It could be a long sleepless night.
Keep cheering on the members of Team GB who are still competing, I know they will appreciate your support.
And keep cheering on your judo team. We need the support now as much as ever. I will never stop giving my all. Do not stop giving yours.
Thank you all for your support over this campaign.
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