Natalie Powell's 'obsession' led to Rio Olympics selection

By Mark PoyserBBC Wales Sport
Natalie Powell and Gemma Gibbons
Wales' Natalie Powell beat England's Gemma Gibbons to gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games

Natalie Powell says being "obsessed" with the Olympics was the driving force behind her selection for Rio 2016.

Wales' Powell, 25, saw off London 2012 silver medalist Gemma Gibbons to win Britain's -78kg spot in Brazil in August.

"I've always been obsessed with all the games, Commonwealth, Olympics, anything on TV, I couldn't help but watch it," said Powell.

She added: "I've always wanted to go to the Olympics since I was tiny."

Gibbons beat Powell to the British spot for London four years ago, but the tables have turned for this summer's Games.

Watching her rival make her mark four years ago also inspired Powell to become the first Welsh female judoka to be selected for an Olympics.

"I kind of saw myself in athletics more so it wasn't really until London that I felt judo could be the one sport I could get there in," said Powell.

"Denise Lewis was my first Olympic memory when she won gold in 2000, I remember her winning."

"I was actually in the stadium in 2012 as Welsh Judo had some free tickets, so I went to watch Gemma get her silver.

"I think it just inspired me for Rio.

"I felt quite close to her level then and I felt that four years down the line I could definitely do it."

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Powell beat Gibbons to win gold at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, signalling a shift in their rivalry.

"The fight with Gemma at the Commonwealth Games was two years in the making, I hadn't actually fought her since [before] the Olympics.

"So that win was great, but at that point I wasn't the same athlete as I am now.

"The two years since the Commonwealth Games is when I've really developed, it really gave me the push I needed."

Powell, from the mid Wales town of Builth Wells, is the only member of the British team heading to Brazil who is seeded, and she has set her sights high.

"I want to win it, the ultimate goal is to win gold. I've put the work in so I have to aim for the top," she said.

Powell is in a team of seven judoka announced by the British Olympic Association on Thursday.

GB judoka for Rio: Nekoda Smythe-Davis (women's -57kg) 23, Alice Schlesinger (women's -63kg) 28, Sally Conway (women's -70kg) 29, Natalie Powell (women's -78kg) 25, Ashley McKenzie (men's -60kg) 26, Colin Oates (men's -66kg) 33' Benjamin Fletcher (men's -100kg) 24.

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