Athletes Our athletes Theo's Story Growing up in East London I started judo thanks to my mum who was determined to keep me focused and out of trouble. I began the sport aged 6 and at first I found it challenging, but found my feet as a teenager when I joined Willesden Judo Club. Here I won my first National Championship, aged 15 and from then on I knew that I would be able to take this passion even further. In total I’ve spent 20 years practising judo: 10 of which I spent competing for Great Britain across the world, winning five more British Championships, two Commonwealth medals, World Cup and European Cup medals. My time spent competing has been some of the greatest years of my life. However, these great moments and milestones were not without their challenges and my own experience made me want to share to help motivate and encourage others to push themselves and to not give up so easily. After I left the city I grew up in for my judo career, I faced a rollercoaster of emotion and determination with some successes along the way. I began thinking about transitioning in 2012 while I was studying a degree in Sports Rehab and Injury Prevention as up until then, I had been solely focused on achieving highly within my Judo career. I approached my Performance Lifestyle Advisor at British Judo for advice and guidance and we came across Dame Kelly Holmes Trust. I met Adam Whitehead, then Athlete Manager, to find out more about the support available. Initially, my main aim for liaising with the Trust was to understand whether or not I should continued with judo or retire completely. I attended an athlete training day, which led to me facilitating my first young people’s programme (Sport for Change with young homeless individuals). Prior to Sport for Change, I had never worked directly with young people, but being involved in the programme allowed me to witness first-hand the positive impact I could have on young people facing disadvantage. From that day I realised how supporting others was beneficial for my own transition and wider personal, social and emotional development. I have worked as an athlete mentor for various companies, charities and Trusts but there is one in particular that I feel goes the extra mile to positively influence the lives of young people in the UK and that is Dame Kelly Holmes Trust. Working on the Trust’s young people programmes has been rewarding and thrilling in equal measures Working on the Trust’s young people programmes such as Get On Track and On Track to Achieve has been rewarding and thrilling in equal measures. I also found that one of the things that excites me as an athlete mentor is that no two days are ever the same and neither are any two young people. Being an athlete mentor places you in a position of trust and responsibility, whilst giving you the opportunity to make a lasting and positive difference to the lives of young people. I find the first day is always the biggest stretch for the young people – a new group of personalities, new athletes and a new venue creates an environment of nervous excitement. It is almost like recreating the fight or flight reflex before competition. It’s really interesting to see this from the other side but also experience it at the same time. I doubt the young people realise that the athletes get nervous too, and this is often the first bit of common ground that we share with them. I've been fortunate enough for the past three years to be able to have a job doing something that I not only enjoy but that also gives me the satisfaction I'm sure only Oscar winners experience.