OLYMPIC judo hopeful Rachael Hawkes is looking forward to an extremely busy few months having had to down tools for three weeks before Christmas because of concussion protocols.
Hawkes took a bang to the head and knocked herself out while contesting the under-70kg final of a World Cup event in Beirut at the end of November.
The incident happened halfway through the fight which was stopped and the gold medal was subsequently awarded to Hawkes’s Turkish opponent.
While disappointed to miss out on gold in such circumstances, the Mountfield woman was satisfied to come away with a silver medal.
“It happened halfway through the fight, which was a bit unfortunate,” she said.
“But it is what it is; it’s a contact sport and these things do happen. There was a whole recovery process to go through, protocols to observe but everything’s back to normal now.
“After three weeks I was back on the mat doing some light stuff and I have been building things up slowly ever since.
“Overall I was pleased how I had performed and winning a silver medal was quite an achievement in itself.”
The runners-up finish came weeks after Hawkes secured fifth in a Grand Prix competition in Australia as she continues to build up ranking points towards her bid for qualfication for the next Olympic Games in Paris in 2024.
Recent performances has the Tyrone fighter well placed to achieve her goal but she can’t afford to drop her standards.
Hawkes must produce consistent performances right up until the Games to ensure her qualification.
It’s an arduous and challenging process which for Rachael continues over the coming months as she competes at major international events in Portugal, Israel, Turkey, Georgia and France before heading to the World Championships in Doha in May.
“As things stand I’m well placed but you have to keep performing to a consistently high level,” she continued.
“The qualification process for judo is one of the most demanding of all sports, it’s extremely tough.
“ I’m going to really focus on my judo and if I perform consistently then the points and places will look after themselves.
“I’m currently in a good place but there is no doubt I have a fun and crazy 18 months ahead attempting to stay there.”