Judo star Nekoda Smythe-Davis is using her time away from the mat to have some honest conversations.
Walsall-based Smythe-Davis is still waiting for the green light to signal the return of her sport, with judo still weeks away from resuming given the physical and close-quarter nature of competition.
And it’s been a bumpy ride for the 27-year-old during lockdown, who has been seeking to diligently juggle her fitness regime alongside helping others and enhancing mental fortitude.
Judokas need brains as well as brawn and Smythe-Davis, who succumbed to a second round defeat in the -57kg division at the Olympic Games in Rio, says the lay-off has presented the perfect opportunity to come back stronger.
“I’ve been calling the last few months a corona-coaster!” Smythe-Davis, who was financially supported by SportsAid as a young athlete, said.
“It’s 100 per cent been about bettering myself mentally, as well as physically – it’s about reflecting on my experiences in Rio, and past disappointments.
“It’s been quite a spiritual experience for me and I’ve been focusing on the relationships around me, and hope I can come back an improved version of myself.
“It’s been a time of having a real conversation with myself, so I’ve started to hold myself accountable more about things.
“Eighty per cent of judo is mental, so I’ve been using this period to tighten up on my mental game and make sure I’m strong and ready for the Games, whatever challenge gets thrown in my way.
“My experience of Rio in 2016 will 100 per cent help me in Tokyo – now I know what it takes to go out there and really believe that you can win.
“I want to become completely invincible by the time the Games come around, and have done everything possible in my power to make sure I can win on the day.”
Smythe-Davis has enjoyed considerable success on the mat despite her Brazilian dreams being dashed, scooping gold on home soil at theGlasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games before winning bronze in the 2017 World Championships in Budapest.
Silver at the 2018 renewal of the competition soon followed but the judo ace hit a stumbling block in Tokyo last year, crashing out during the World Championship pool stages after losing to South Korea’s Kim Ji-su.
Smythe-Davis knows there’s more to life than sport currently, however, and has used the coronavirus lay-off to help educate others in both the judo world and beyond.
The death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement has brought with it a shift in mentality, with Smythe-Davis acutely aware of her responsibility as an athlete from an ethnic background in the public eye.
And as the discussion in Britain continues to unfold, the thoughtful Smythe-Davis has been reflecting on her experiences and having some conversations of her own to help make a difference.
For those who don’t believe racism exists in UK or that this is America’s problem, please read. Don’t be ignorant, educate yourself and listen to those actually going through it. https://t.co/3ZUZ5ogmfy— Nekoda Davis (@nekodadavis_57) June 26, 2020
“I’ve personally felt I can make a greater impact by having those conversations with my immediate friendship groups and family,” she added.
“I’ve been having tough conversations by getting down to what’s going on in society and the challenges that we’re facing.
“It’s important to do what you think is right for you, and it’s about having those hard conversations with friends who have different opinions, and getting to a place where we can understand each other and understand what this movement’s about.
“I’m going to have the biggest impact in the judo community, and education and conversations are 100 per cent the best way to combat this.”
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