Judoka twins ace A’ levels for places at Oxford and London School of Economics

Identical twins Tom and Will Johnson really are like two peas in a pod, not only do they look alike, they do everything together – from judo to the same A’ Levels.

But after each achieving outstanding exam results yesterday, they will now part ways for separate universities to embark on their journey towards different careers.

After gaining four A’s, Will has accepted a place at Oxford to study Law with aspirations to become a barrister, and Tom, with two A* and two A’s, will go to London School of Economics to study history with a view to a career in investment banking.

The 18 year-olds from Coulsdon, Surrey, achieved these fabulous results after both took the same subjects of History, English, Maths and Economics at Wilson’s Grammar School in Wallington.

Tom, the elder twin by nine minutes, said “We are identical, but sometimes I question it.

“We both got into judo after our parents thought we would be physically suited to it.

“Obviously university life, and the different subjects will be a change for us, but it’s definitely one that we view as positive. We had to go on separate paths eventually. We’re both passionate about our chosen subjects, so we look forward to pursuing them.”

Tom said: “It seems a bit surreal as there has been a big build up to these results and now it feels as though there has been a big weight removed from my shoulders. In particular, he is looking forward to being based in central London.

“Living in London gives me the flexibility to move around freely. I am also excited that I have just been accepted to train at the world famous Budokwai.”

Furthermore, his university is supporting him with a sports scholarship enabling him to train alongside his degree. He said: “I definitely will continue with my competitive judo as my scholarship will not only give me a chance to continue competing, but will make my judo even stronger.”

Will added: “I am really pleased that my results enabled me to get my first choice university and I am happy for my twin Tom who beat me with two A* to gain an LSE sports scholarship support scheme. As always, there is a bit of sibling rivalry both on and off the mat – for example I would have liked to have got two A* too or better, but I am pleased I got into Oxford.”

Even though Will has to juggle the demands of studying at the country’s premier university, he still aims to maintain his judo career and to train with the team in Walsall. Furthermore, Oxford has an excellent Judo team in the “Blues” and Will is looking forward to joining to make the team “even stronger”.

Until now, both brothers have trained at Coulsdon Martial Arts under Errol Field, achieving their first Dan’s at the age of 16.

On their rite of passage and leaving the club, their coach Field, said: “When they were youngsters they joined the class for their age group but within a couple of sessions they had done so well we graduated them to the next class, then they eclipsed that one so we had to put them in with the older kids. It is the first time we have ever done that. Their parents have been so supportive throughout, taking them all over the United Kingdom and now their younger children who are also at the club are coming into their own too. Sophie in particular regularly takes on the 3rd Dan grades. 

“They train very hard, but they also study very hard. They are simply incredible and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see them both in the 2020 Olympics.

Currently they are both in the GB U21 squad and are looking forward to their next big competition in the form of the Sainsbury’s School Games (formerly UK School Games), competing for England against Scotland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Brazil. This will be followed closely by the British Championships.

The pair were also “gamesmakers” at London 2012,     fitting as they both have aspirations of one day   making the Olympic squad themselves – for the 2020 Games.

And then there was the time that they both met and performed judo in front of the Mayor of London Boris Johnson – not a relation.

In 2009, Boris, who is also a qualified black belt, visited Croydon Judo Club as part of an initiative to boost grassroots sports in London. Obviously he wanted to meet the judo aces who shared his namesake.

However, that’s where the similarity ends.

The boys compete in alternative weight bands and have won different competitions.

Tom (-66kg) has enjoyed international success in Venray where he took a superb gold, and Will (-73kg) won gold at this year’s British Championships.

Matwork Vs Schoolwork 

So how do the twins manage to balance the complex demands of academia with the high performance judo programme – and still manage to be so good at both?

It is all about time management,” Will explained.

“We simply do not waste time. This means we are able to balance the demands of our school work with high level judo, and still manage to have a social life too.

“We hope to go to the British Championships and put in a competitive performance, even perhaps to medal.”

Perhaps it also helps coming from a judo family. With their parents being competitive in cycling and gymnastics at one time, they encouraged their children to get into sport – and judo was the one they chose. Both of their younger brothers and their sister compete. Sophie and James are both on the England programme and Louis is just starting out.

Transitioning from school to University also gives the brothers more flexibility as it does not have the set time rigours of a school day. Independent study means some work can be completed outside the campus, which will allow them to attend training sessions at the Centre of Excellence in Walsall during semester breaks.

“At Uni we will be spending less time in the classroom and more for independent study so it will be entirely possible to regularly be at Walsall, which is not too far away from Oxford or London,” said Will. “We juggled our time for quite a few years while we were at school, so if anything it will be easier.”

Meanwhile, young Pete Miles, 17, from Bristol, who is in his first year of A’ Levels, achieved four A’s and a B in his first year (equivalent to AS Levels) in Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry.

He is now looking for a place at a top university, with his sights firmly set on Oxford to study Mathematics, although he has already caught the eye of Cambridge!. As well as winning bronzes at the European Championships and Cadet Worlds this year, and silver at the European Youth Festival in Holland.

Asked how he balances his judo with coursework and exams, he said: “I just prioritise my school work and then focus on my training. I manage to fit it all in and have some free social time too.”

Meanwhile, Jodie Myers also performed exceptionally with two merits and a distinction in her BTEC course.

Overall, British Judo would like to say well done to all of those who achieved academic results this summer, as well as performing in judo.

Matt Divall, England Programme Manager: said: “Gaining top results go to show that it is possible to combine an international judo career with studies too. It is important to plan for your future career if only to have something to fall back on once retiring from competitive judo.”

Words by Donna Richardson. Images courtesy of Croydon Judo Club and IJF.