Delighted 17-year-old Tom Lish returned back to England from the Bahamas last week with a prestigious Commonwealth Youth judo gold medal.
He was undefeated at the games, held in Nassau, which was the first time judo was included at the event.
Making history, Lish won the first ever gold medal in judo, which also happened to be the first gold of the competition for England, putting them firmly at the top of the medal league, a place cemented with other another four judo gold medals and a bronze.
Lish, who is a member of the Berkhamsted-based Rush Judo club, said: “I was over the moon just to have made selection for the games, so to be the first gold medal winner not only for judo and for the England team, but of the whole games was just fantastic.
“It was the experience of a lifetime and just spurs me on to work harder and achieve more. I couldn’t have done this without the support of my school, all my coaches in judo and with the England team, but especially the support of Laurie Rush, without whom I would not be celebrating this achievement.”
It added to other English successes in swimming and athletics, meaning the games ended with England victorious.
English judoka were among 74 young athletes, aged between 14-18, to be selected for Team England
Lish started judo when he was seven. For a boy who was said to have ‘zero sporting ability’ he started training with no particular aptitude or aspirations. He recalls being constantly beaten at his first competitions but he enjoyed the sport and his parents Claire and Matt always remind him “it doesn’t matter how many times you get thrown, it matters how many times you get up”.
Lish continued getting up, kept training hard and eventually started to win fights.
It was a slow process for Lish who, compared to his peers, is a relative newcomer to ranking events.
He spent the last two-and-a-half years working hard to achieve national selection.
The teenager began attending ranking events after begging his parents to let him have a go, a complete change from the local competitions he was used to. Much to everyone’s surprise he won a silver at his first-ever event in 2015. From that point on, he continued to improve.
He is undefeated this year and most notably has won the Midland Open, The English Open, The North Western Open, The Sportif International, The Northern Irish Open and the London Open. He made his international debut at the European Cadet Cup, achieving a seventh-placed finish in Spain.
He is ranked number one in the country in the U90kg Cadet category, where he is unbeaten in this year’s British Judo ranking events, and is UK number one in his 90kg weight group, with 23 ippon wins and is a remarkable 160 points ahead of the second-placed judoka.
He trains every day of the week, three nights at his home club Rush Judo in Berkhamsted. He is also head boy at his school, Watford UTC, who have given exemplary support, agreeing a program which allows him a day off every week to train and study for an advanced apprenticeship in sporting excellence at Camberley Judo club with full-time England athletes.
Lish is a member of the England squad and is also part of the England Academy.
The British Championships is his next goal as he moves up to the Juniors category and is hoping to get a place on the podium in his first outing at that level.