Exclusive: I still haven't come down, says Olympic silver medallist Gibbons
Wednesday, 24 October 2012
October 24 - It was one of the most enduring and touching moments of London 2012, when underdog Gemma Gibbons looked up to the heavens and dedicated her judo silver to her mother by mouthing the words "I Love You Mum".
Gibbons' mother Jeanette had introduced her to the sport at the age of six and guided her early career before dying of leukaemia in 2004.
This was Gibbons' way of saying thank you as she held back the tears in an emotional silent tribute.
Now, almost three months on, Gibbons is still coming to terms with the enormity of what she achieved – and the instant fame it bestowed on her.
"To be honest I still haven't come down yet," she told insidethegames.
"I'm still on a rollercoaster."
In terms of legacy, it appears to be having the desired effect.
"The sport seems to have got a lot more members, with loads more girls turning up at judo clubs," Gibbons explained.
"In those terms, the Games certainly inspired a generation, getting people who may not have known much about judo to get involved."
It goes with territory that having become an overnight star, Gibbons is now helping to spread the word.
She was speaking at a joint initiative between the British Judo Association (BJA) and the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation at a north London school where she took a question and answer session from a group of excited children, all with aspirations of becoming Olympic athletes of the future.
It was exactly the kind of initiative she is keen to promote after the culmination of a remarkable judo journey, overcoming grief and hardship to get to the top – capped by that now famous spontaneous gesture.
Looking back on it, Gibbons remarked: "I read somewhere that someone said I did it to get attention but if that was the case I'd have done it in my first fight because on paper I wasn't supposed to get any further, let alone get to the final."
Yet she has only watched the video a couple of times since.
"I don't really like to watch it to be honest because really the Olympics was more about competing," she said.
"I just did it because of all the help my mother had given me."
What Gibbons never fully grasped, however, was the level of exposure she would be place under.
"It's been hard to be honest but it's also been great," she explained.
"It is strange being in the supermarket and someone comes up to you and congratulates you.
"But then when am I ever going to have the same opportunity to inspire kids and do stuff I may never have the chance to do again?
"I want to make the most of it."
If she has one worry, it is that the Olympics may not linger longer enough in the memory.
"Minority sports like judo have used the Olympics to show we are great sports and can get kids involved," she said.
"It's a bit scary that this could disappear.
"That's why I'm doing initiatives like this."