Niamh Southgate recently caught up with the Telegraph to talk about how lockdown and the Coronavirus pandemic has affected her progression as part of their Keep Kids Active Campaign and her hopes for the future of grassroot sport..
Niamh, who is the current Cadet National Champion, represented British Judo at the 2019 European Cadet Championships and won silver medals at the Commonwealth Judo Championships at both cadet and senior level.
Niamh started 2020 well, finishing in 7th place at the Fuengirola Cadet European Cup, her best European Cup performance to date. She followed this up with victory at the Scottish Open before the UK was forced into its first national lockdown.
Over the past 9 months Kumo Judo Club’s Niamh, and two of her sisters, Eden and Taylor, have been forced to train in their garden cabin under the watchful eye, via video call, by their coaches Howard and Denise Oates – parents to two-time Olympian, two-time European medallist and British Judo Performance Coach, Colin Oates.
While the club was able to reopen for a month between lockdowns, Niamh has been mostly resigned to training in her cabin alongside her sisters due to not qualifying under the ‘elite athlete exemption’ due to still being a cadet fighter.
Niamh is quick to point out that she is luckier than most, as well as having her two sisters to train alongside she has also qualified for SportsAid funding, which has meant she has been able to purchase some weights to use at home.
Niamh still has time on her side and as member of the England Talent Development programme, praised the work of the England Judo coaches, who have helped with her fitness and cardio work by hosting virtual training sessions.
Niamh hopes that children will not be put off playing sport altogether due to the pandemic and that people continue to push to get grass-root sport back.