How pulling pints has helped Lucy Renshall realise Tokyo dream

There won't be many athletes at the Tokyo Olympics who like to spend their spare time pulling pints down their local Wetherspoons.

Lucy Renshall
Lucy Renshall

But that's what helps Walsall-based judo star Lucy Renshall unwind from the pressure that comes with being an elite sportswoman.

The 25-year-old is now in Japan as she bids to realise her life-long goal of winning an Olympic medal.

Her date with destiny is Wednesday, July 27, with Renshall set for a day of competition in the under 63kg weight category.

But her journey to Tokyo has been far from straight forward.

Born in St Helen's, Renshall was eight-years-old when she first took up judo.

She quickly caught the eye of Team GB talent spotters. And at the age of 17, she applied for and successfully obtained a spot at the British Judo Centre of Excellence, based in Walsall.

Ever since she has lived in the Black Country.

And while she doesn't drink, the 25-year-old has embedded herself in the local community by getting a part-time job at the Wetherspoons owned St. Matthew’s Hall pub.

"I'd always been in and around the British team but when they opened up the centre of excellence in Walsall – that was a big moment for me," Renshall said.

"I applied when I was 17 and I've been training there full-time, and living in the West Midlands, ever since.

"I started working part-time in Wetherspoons in Walsall four years ago.

"I don’t drink, I don’t have time to drink, judo isn’t seasonal like other sports – it's all year round so we don’t have the opportunity to get out and do stuff like that.

"But I started working in Weatherspoons just as something else to do, so my whole focus wasn’t just on judo.

"Sometimes in judo, if you have a bad session, you can go home and dwell on things.

"I started working in Weatherspoons just for some normality and to take my mind off judo. I do a couple of nights a week there just for some normality."

Renshall's journey to Tokyo has been far from straight-forward with the fighter only seeing her place in the Team GB squad confirmed earlier this month.

"For the past five years I've been working to get to this Olympics," she continued.

"It's been an incredible five years with a lot of ups and downs.

"Some things have gone my way, some things haven't but earning a spot made all that hard work worth it.

"In judo, only one person from each weight category can compete at the Olympics.

"In my weight category - there was four of us competing for the one spot.

"Then when it got down to the last few events, it was just me and one another girl.

"I’ve always kept that confidence I would get there.

"But, of course, the girls I was competing against were good athletes and they have won some important medals in the past.

"When we got back into training after lockdown, it was very intense – some days were hard, some days were good. But I just had to believe in myself and believe that I would do it."

Renshall says confirmation she had been selected for Tokyo went down very well in the pub.

"Everyone in the pub was so happy and I've got to say they have all been really supportive," she continued.

"I can’t work the hours a normal worker would work because my priority is judo.

"Sometimes my programme can change at very short notice. In the evening I can get a text to say ‘we are doing this tomorrow.’

"So they are really understanding. When I told them I am going to the Olympics they were absolutely over the moon."

Now she is at the games, Renshall wants to win a medal.

And she is hoping her experience as a training partner at the 2016 Olympics in Rio will help her achieve her dream.

"This will be the first Olympics I have competed at," Renshall said.

"But I went to the Rio Olympics in 2016 as a training partner. I was there to warm up the people competing.

"It’s a chance to experience it and see what everything is like.

"So on the one hand I feel like I have already been to the Olympics and experienced one - I just have not fought there.

"But you don’t go to any competition just wanting the experience, you go to win and get a medal.

"I want to enjoy the experience but of course I want to get an Olympic medal – that has been my ultimate goal forever."

Because of coronavirus, Renshall's family and friends are not able to fly out to Japan to see her compete.

But the judo star confirmed they will be able to watch – with her competition set to be streamed live on the internet.

"Apart from my coaches and the other members of the team – because of Covid we are not able to take anybody with us," Renshall added.

"That is unfortunate. But we do have a really good team, there are six of us athletes that are going and we are all really close.

"And my coach is going and other staff from British judo so it will be okay.

"The competition is being live-streamed on the internet.

"And I've got to say Team GB have been fantastic with my family. They have sent them banners and t-shirts and things like that.

"They have done as best as they can to still get my family involved because, if they could, they would be in Tokyo with me.

"Even though there is a time difference they will still be up watching.

"Normally in Judo, it’s five or six fights to get a medal, hopefully, I’ll get there."

Most Read

Most Read

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News