Welsh judoka Jasmine Hacker-Jones says she might have missed judo’s return to the Commonwealth Games after the Covid-19 lockdown saw her emerge as a candidate for Wales’ wrestling team in Birmingham.
Hacker-Jones took up judo at the age of four, but her world was thrown upside down when Wales went into lockdown in March 2020.
The 21-year-old’s judo program was stopped and she lost focus and put on weight until her competitive spirit was revived by wrestling sessions with boyfriend Ieuan.
“Lockdown was really difficult, I put on a lot of weight and lost sight of my goals,” said Maesteg-born Hacker-Jones, a student at Cardiff Metropolitan University.
“But my boyfriend does MMA and we started training together.
“We bought some mats from Amazon and set them out in the garden.
“Every day we’d hit pads and do a bit of grappling when we could, and I really enjoyed it.
“Judo and wrestling are very different in some ways, and I managed to adapt to it.”
So much so that Hacker-Jones, who competes in judo at the -63 kg weight class, was soon in contention for a Wales wrestling place at Birmingham 2022.
The practicality of competing in both sports at the Commonwealth Games, however, proved impossible.
She said: “There was a chance I could have done wrestling in Birmingham.
“But I couldn’t put myself 100 per cent into both of them. Judo was always the dream, so I chose it over wrestling.
“The sport wasn’t in the (Gold Coast) Games four years ago so I’m just glad it’s back.
“I’m just thinking of these Games now, but who knows in the future what will happen about my wrestling. Maybe after Birmingham I’ll re-evaluate.”
Hacker-Jones combines her studies with two jobs in a coffee shop and as an administrative assistant at an estate agents.
She also worked as a carer during the pandemic, looking after the elderly as well as people suffering from disabilities.
“My mum has been a carer as long as I can remember,” she said. “I know they were struggling really badly in the pandemic being so under-staffed.
“While I wasn’t training I decided to step in and help, and I worked in the same company as my mum.
“It was so nice to provide for someone who couldn’t necessarily provide for themselves.
“I did it for a year and a half before I got back into training, and now I’m going to the Commonwealth Games. I just can’t believe it.”
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