Judo star Connor Potts aims for Tokyo 2020 target

Recognition from MP for his dedication to sport

Tokyo 2020 Olympic hopeful Connor Potts from Selby has received a letter from the Houses of Parliament as local MP Nigel Adams recognised his skills in judo, writes Donna Richardson.

“It has been brought to my attention that your judo skills are developing very well and I would like to congratulate you,” said the letter which arrived on a handwritten card.

“Judo is a very disciplined sport that takes a lot of effort and skills and I wish you all the best.”

The 16-year old, who will turn 17 in June, currently trains at Goole Judo Club, based at the local Leisure Centre, under coach John Birkill.

He supplements his club training with sessions at other clubs in the local area and at the Excell centre as he transitions towards his target of training towards becoming the next generation of Olympic athlete.

He is currently finishing off his one year apprenticeship in Gamekeeping at Askham Bryan college in York, and is hopeful of securing a place on the Judo Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence course at the British Judo Centre of Excellence in Walsall.

This is aimed at young athletes exactly like Connor, aged 16-18, dedicated and looking to make a career in their chosen discipline, training full time at the centre.

If he is successful he will be based at the University of Wolverhampton’, Walsall Campus from September.

In fact it has been quite an eventful 12 months for Connor so far, after becoming Cadet British Champion in Sheffield last December at -50kg, winning all his fights and becoming the first member to win gold for his club, he did the double a week later by securing the -50kg Junior bronze.

This year he gained another bronze at the English Open last month in the under 55kg category by winning two fights out of four. Now he is looking forward to competing in at the Cadet European Cup in Coimbra, Portugal the weekend after next (11-12 April), fighting at -50kg, following an English Talent Development session in Walsall this coming weekend. Currently he is ranked the currently ranked number 1 in the UK -50kg.

“I’ve been training hard and I feel I am ready for it,” he said.

“My coach John Burkill has been getting me to cardiovascular exercise so I can carry on fighting for longer and we’ve been pushing ahead with the strength and conditioning at Goole Leisure Centre. I love my club Goole Judo Club and I will always stay true to it as they have made me who I am today.”

Potts started judo at the age of six, and then stopped briefly to pursue football for a while playing for his local football team Real Cliff where he was top scorer for three years running and then playing for United U12s, before returning to judo.

He won a place on the Cadet squad in 2010, where he fights at under 50 kg and this year has been slowly stepping up to Junior level at -55kg, earning his place by winning the Nationals last December.

Time out from judo: the great outdoors

When he is not on the mat, you are likely to find him walking his dog with wellies in a muddy field walking his dog Patch or armed with a rifle shooting pheasants and game. He enjoys all outdoor leisure activities including fishing.

His love of the countryside is hardly surprising as by day he studies Gamekeeping at Askham Bryan College in York.

He was inspired by his grandad who used to take him shooting and his dad bought him his first rifle.

He said: “Judo takes up a lot of my time and right now I am training at home day and night. 

“I got into judo as aged six and I found it really helps me to focus and also channel my energy.

“When I have some spare time, I like to go out with my dog patch and my gun.

“Going out and doing things outdoors makes me really focus on the mat too.”

As his one year gamekeeping course draws to an end, Connor’s next focus is on gaining a place on the AASE apprenticeship so he can pursue his Judo, but he will always have the gamekeeping trade to fall back on.

His coach John Burkill recently passed his UK Coaching Certificate (UKCC) at Level 3 exam in judo, making a double celebration in order for the Goole Judo club.

He said: “I am very proud of Connor, he has been with me since the age of six and he is one of the first players to win the club a gold medal at the National Championships, we have had many silver and bronze medallists but Connor could be our next homegrown Olympic hopeful.”

Connor Potts is aiming for success

He added: “His training at the club and on the circuit is going really well. His transition to ne-waza has been successful and he has become extremely fast at strangles and holds from standing.

“Overall, he is developing well. If he gains a place in Walsall, it will be the next step in his development.

“If you want to go to the top, that is where you need to go as the set up is excellent there.

“I’ve always encouraged him to go to other clubs too and get the experience with other players. 

“I have every confidence that he will achieve his goals and I will always support him all the way.” 

He added: “Connor is an all round athlete, he is good at all sports and is a natural athlete. It is also important for athletes to get some free time and Connor manages it just perfectly with his outdoors activities.

“He and Patch go off on their long walks and shooting and he comes back more focused and determined in his judo.” 

Read more about John’s UKCC Level three experience in a future article.

In judo Connor will continue to step up to the plate with more competitions on the horizon as he pushes ahead to the Junior squad.

Connor Potts with Molly and Ellie Storey

Longer term he will eventually transition onto the Senior squad as an -60kg player.

Since Coimbra is a self-funding event, for Connor to progress further he requires sponsorship to develop. Also going to Coimbra is Storey who is pictured below.

Any local businesses or individuals who would like to sponsor Connor get in touch with his mum Janine by emailing pottsjanine@sky.com

Anyone who would like to get involved in Judo can call John at Goole Leisure Centre on 01405769005.

Words by Donna Richardson.  

Photos supplied.

Top right Connor with his dog Patch, letter from MP and Connor Potts with Molly and Ellie Storey at a recent SportsAid Foundation ball at the Hilton in Leeds.

Connor Potts is ready to aim for his goal of Tokyo 2020