JUDOKA Christopher George is keenly anticipating the Olympic debut of Gabriella Wood saying he is proud of her accomplishment as his journey to the Olympics is nothing compared to what she had to endure.
Wood, 23, will become TT’s first woman to compete at an Olympics in judo. The women’s +78kg category will begin at 10 pm on Thursday. Wood, who is based in Scotland under coach Lee Calder, will battle against Maryna Slutskaya of Belarus in the seventh fight scheduled in the category.
George, 37, was this country’s first judoka to feature at an Olympics when he fought at the 2016 Rio games.
In an interview on Wednesday, George said, “I am immensely proud of Gabby. I have known her for the last ten years, since maybe 2010 or 2011.” George said Wood always had goals of qualifying for an Olympics.
“I remember 2015, when I qualified for the Olympics she was one of the first people who told me that they wanted to go to an Olympics also.”
George said he felt elated that Wood's dream has come to reality and is impressed moreso by that fact that she has reached the Olympics in the midst of a pandemic.
“I feel very connected to her journey…I remember last year during covid19 when she was trapped in her house because the quarantine was so severe she could not leave.”
George said training sessions were arranged between Queen’s Park Judo Club in TT and Wood’s club in Scotland in an effort to have her remain active during the pandemic.
“Seeing her train in the attic of her aunt’s house was amazing and that was basically how she was keeping in shape for four, five months during this pandemic.”
What Wood had to endure in achieving the Olympic dream can’t be compared to his experience, George said.
“What is special about her journey in my opinion is the tenacity she has shown with things absolutely outside of her control. I almost feel like my journey was almost a walk in the park compared (to her) because all I needed to do was literally fight against the other judoka and try to qualify.
"She had to fight against a one in a hundred years emergency (pandemic). For her to keep focus during the pandemic...I am immensely proud and full kudos to her."
Asked what advice he would give Wood who is on the verge of creating history, George said, “Just live in the moment…just breathe and appreciate every second you are out there. For her, this is the culmination of the last five or six years of hard work.”
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, George lost to Yan Naing Soe from Myanmar, in his opening fight in the men’s 100kg category.
George, who has been focusing on coaching recently, is hoping Wood progresses further than he did.
“I want her to be the first person to win a match in the Olympics for TT in judo and I want her to get as far as she could possibly go. If she does that I would be absolutely elated.” George said Wood has “nothing to lose and everything to gain.”