Hometown judo hopeful Petersen-Pollard thrilled to make Commonwealth debut

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Commonwealth Games - Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games - Glasgow, Scotland - 25/7/14 Judo 63kg 1/8 Finals - Australia's Katharina Haecker in action with England's KJ Yeats-Brown (R) Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Steven Paston Livepic (Action Images)

Birmingham judo hopeful Kelly Petersen-Pollard can’t wait to make her Commonwealth bow just a few miles from where she grew up, writes Tum Balogun. 

The 23-year-old has made confident strides in the past year, with three top three Grand Slam finishes after excelling at junior level.

And now she is ready to showcase the prodigious talent which has seen her climb into the world’s top ten in front of a ton of friends and family.

“It’s literally in my hometown, just down the road”, she beamed.

“You can see it in Birmingham there are things getting built and getting put up and big signs and what not, it’s just going to be incredible.

"My mum mum and all her friends and family are coming. My dad and his side then I’ve got my boyfriend, his dad and family, his mum.

“And then all my friends [as well] I was like ‘oh God!’”

This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, will comprise of over 400 athletes, and having secured her place on the squad, Peterson-Pollard is looking to capitalise on the once in a lifetime opportunity for medal success in her home town.

As one of the least experienced members of the Team England judo squad, she is keen to take advice from some of her older teammates, like two-time Olympian Gemma Howell.

Indeed, the team’s strength in depth has better enabled her to deal with the pressure of a first Commonwealth Games.

She said: “The team’s a really strong team, we have someone who’s European champion, a world number one, and I’m top ten.

“We [also] have a Grand Slam gold medallist so it’s a really strong team.

“Some of the girls are a little bit older and have just come back from Tokyo and then there’s a few of us who are a bit younger.

The Hardy Spicer star will be competing in the under 70kg category and faces fierce competition from Australian rivals as well as from teammate Jemima Yeats-Brown, who took home silver in 2014.

With her ranking and recent performances in mind, Petersen-Pollard regards herself as one of the tournament's leading contenders.

It seems her tactic will be to play the long game, aiming to frustrate opponents with superior stamina.

She said: “I have quite good fitness, so I go quite long in fights so in some fights I’ll go to golden score which is basically first person to score and that can be unlimited time.

“If the person I’m fighting has not got good fitness sometimes that’ll be how I beat them because I keep going and going until they can’t do it anymore basically.

"Fitness and speed is something I have.”

Petersen-Pollard is one of more than 1,100 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing them to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.

For the next couple of weeks however, Games preparation will have to take a backseat for the University of Wolverhampton student as she completes her studies in Exercise and Health.

“I’m just writing my dissertation,” she added.

“I think it's due in two and a half weeks - perfect timing!”

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