Nekoda was a recipient of SportsAid funding as she was making her way in the judo world, meeting HRH The Duchess of Cambridge as a teenager during her ascent towards becoming the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games champion in the -57kg division.
World Championship medals soon followed – bronze in 2017 and silver in 2018 – with the 27-year-old now waiting for regular, competitive judo to resume as the COVID-19 pandemic poses a multitude of challenges.
And as hundreds of SportsAid-supported athletes continue to adjust to life in another national lockdown, Nekoda casts her eye back on her own experiences to offer invaluable advice to the stars of the future.
“My first piece of advice is that you have to be happy and enjoy what you do - whenever you feel like you’re losing sight of a goal, you should always think ‘what makes me happy?’
“Being a happy athlete growing up will ensure you stay in the sport for as long as possible - if you stop enjoying it you’ll lose interest and your results will start to decline.
“It’s 100 per cent easy to lose sight of why you started the sport in the first place - when I’ve been injured I’ve always thought ‘how am I going to get back from this?’
“And after every loss I’ve suffered, I’ve never turned around and thought ‘I’m not good enough’ – I’ve always looked at it as ‘I didn’t beat you today, I’ll beat you next time’.
“That’s what has kept me in the sport and kept me doing what I’m doing - I’ll always come back and be better, rather than taking the loss difficultly or taking it really hard.”
“My second main piece of advice is about being consistent – I compare it to my own experiences in that growing up, I never missed a training session.
“I would literally have to be bed-ridden to prevent me turning up to a session, and if there were ever any extra sessions when I was growing up, I was there as well.
“For me, it was about being really consistent – I always turned up to training, so I would say that sense of consistency will really see you through.
“That consistency will ensure that you get exactly what you deserve in the sport, in whatever sport you’re doing, and that you actually achieve your potential.
“If you’re not consistent, you’re not actually giving yourself an opportunity and the chance to achieve everything you can achieve.”
“And my third piece of advice would be to always set the next goal in sight.
“Kids often say to me ‘Nekoda, if I want to be an Olympian like you, what do I need to do?’ and I always say, 'when I was your age, I never thought about being an Olympian'.
“I never had that big moment where I was like ‘okay, I want to be an Olympian’ – everything was step-by-step for me and setting the next goal in sight, whether that was winning a medal at a small event or getting on a particular squad.
“I always just set the next goal that was achievable, and it’s about constantly taking those baby steps, with those baby steps then taking you on a path on to being a champion.
“Setting those little goals will help you get one step closer each time, and that’s when you get that ‘well done’ feeling that you’ve achieved something.
“If you set those small goals then all the things you achieve will feel big, before you then look ahead and move on to the next thing in your journey.”
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