By Nick Butler at the University of Wolverhampton in Walsall

Olympic heptathlon Denise Lewis opened the new British Judo Centre of ExcellenceNovember 12 - Denise Lewis, the Sydney 2000 Olympic heptathlon champion, this afternoon opened the new British Judo Centre for Excellence here, part of Britain's aim to build upon the success of London 2012 and win their first Olympic gold medal in the sport in Rio.

Britain surpassed targets by winning two medals in London thanks to Gemma Gibbons in the under 78 kilogrammes division and a bronze for the now-retired Karina Bryant in the over 78kg.

British Judo believe their new facility could be what is required to propel them to a gold medal at Rio 2016.

Although Lewis is a former athlete rather than a judoka, she knows what it takes to reach the top step of the Olympic podium and, coming from Wolverhampton and been granted the freedom of the city, she seemed the perfect person to open the centre.

She began with a tour of the multi-purpose facilities, which includes a strength and conditioning suite, physiotherapy and massage rooms and on-site accommodation in addition to shops, catering, launderette and leisure facilities.

The highlight is undeniably the state-of-the-art dojo facility which also consists of two Olympic sized contest areas - adjourned with motivational quotations from figures, including Muhammad Ali. 

It creates one of the best high-performance judo environments in Europe, it is claimed. 

After posing with young competitors on the mat, Lewis unveiled a plaque commemorating the new centre alongside British Judo chairman Kerrith Brown, chief executive Andrew Scoular and director of sport at the University of Wolverhampton Michael Chamberlain.

Denise Lewis unveiling the British Judo Centre of Excellence in her home town University of WolverhamptonDenise Lewis unveiling the British Judo Centre of Excellence in her home town University of Wolverhampton

British Judo's Centre of Excellence is a venture funded by the University of Wolverhampton. 

The University donated the former sports hall and a lecture theatre and also paid for renovation work to transform the space into a state-of-the-art performance environment.

Work on the facility was commissioned after an independent performance review outlined the need for a centralised programme for the sport of judo in England and took just over six months to complete.

Brown commented "today marks an historic day for British Judo - the opening of a new home for British Judo's performance programme.

"In partnership with the University, I believe that we have been able to build a world-class performance environment where British Judo's athletes can get the quality and quantity of training required for us to produce Great Britain's first Olympic gold medalist."

Also among the speakers was Scoular, who revealed how "British Judo is proud to call this the home of our new performance hub.

"We have an excellent facility and we are very impressed by the speed in building the dojo.

"We look forward to a bright new future and welcoming all the new inductees to build a pathway to excellence - ultimately we aim to deliver the first British Judo Olympic Champion through our centre."

The strength and conditioning centre at the British Judo Centre of ExcellenceThe strength and conditioning facility at the British Judo Centre of Excellence

During the tour of the facilities, Brown explained how he hopes the new centre will help inspire improvement at all levels of the sport.

"It is definitely a very proud moment for British Judo - we underwent a performance review and on the back of that we took action, and the action has led us to where we are now with this fantastic facility and partnership," he told insidethegames.

"This location went through a rigorous process between Loughborough, Bath and several others and obviously we were a large part of that process to make sure we got the right facilities and the right development towards Rio and beyond.

"We have made mistakes in the past, with the choices for other performance facilities, but this was the right outcome and the right pathway."

British Judo are now looking to go one step better than the silver medal won by Gemma Gibbons at London 2012British Judo are now looking to go one step better than the silver medal won by Gemma Gibbons at London 2012

  Another athlete who is looking to benefit from the new facility is Max Stewart, who after a strong junior career, will be making the transition to the senior ranks by training full-time at the facility.

"To be so close to home it is amazing really," he told insidethegames.

"I used to train close by on another location nearby, which was alright, but this is so much better - it's a great opportunity.

"The gym's really good and there's more people my weight category - usually I have to train with lighter guys, but now I've got people in each weight, which is really good."

Stewart is training for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year and then for Rio 2016 - although Tokyo 2020 might be a more realistic target - while he welcomes the chance to combine training with studying at the nearby university.

Most of all, however, he believes the Centre of Excellence will allow him to boost his strength to levels necessary to excel at senior level. 

"Training here will be a big help - what I had before to what I've got now is such a big change - I think it will help me a lot and be a big step," he said.

"Now I've gone into a category with men, I think that I will have to get a bit stronger, a lot stronger really and in particular the gym will help."