University of Birmingham student Rhys Thompson is no stranger to lessons in the second city, but it was the 25-year-old judoka who turned teacher as he beat Fiji’s Tevita Takayawa in dominant fashion to take Commonwealth bronze.
Thompson was beaten by Canada’s Kyle Reyes in the semi-finals to leave him scrapping for bronze, but the London-born fighter put his disappointment behind him to clinch a medal on home soil.
Thompson was on top for most of the fight with the Fijian but had to wait until the final 20 seconds to produce the ippon he needed to seal bronze.
And the adopted Brummie was overwhelmed to be taking a medal with him from a home Games.
“I think relief was the main emotion when it ended,” said Thompson.
“I knew Tevita was good, I’ve fought him a couple of times before and I know he can throw so I was a bit wary, but I also knew I could beat him.
“Especially when you’ve got the home crowd, your friends and family here, there was a lot of relief – I let out a big roar which isn’t normal for me, but I was overcome with emotions.”
This summer, Team England, supported by funding by National Lottery players, comprises of over 400 athletes, all vying for medal success.
For Thompson, it is the finest moment of his career as a judoka so far, but he is not content on stopping there.
With the Paris 2024 Olympics just two years away, Thompson is taking confidence from his performances in Birmingham into his tilt to be in France.
“There was a couple of guys today that I fought that are well within the top 40,” added Thompson.
“I’m really giving them good scraps and beating a few, so I know I’m nearing that level, I just need to perform a bit more consistently.”
Thompson’s bronze was part of a raft of medals for Team England, as Emma Reid and Jamal Petgrave claimed golds while Harry Lovell-Hewitt also won bronze in the same -100kg category as Thompson.
Lovell-Hewitt beat Australian Kayhan Ozcicek-Takagi to claim his bronze, and the 25-year-old hailed the power of the home crowd.
“It felt amazing walking out to the crowd with that noise, I’ve never really done an event with that sort of noise and a home crowd, not to this extent,” admitted Lovell-Hewitt.
“Other British ones, it’s not quite the same, but an international one with everyone cheering for the home nation, it’s amazing.”
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