We're counting down to the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022 by getting to know our Welsh judoka a little better. Here, Ashleigh Barnikel shares her judo journey so far...

How and when did you get into judo? Why did you choose judo?

I started doing judo at the age of 4 at my parents club which was more of a classical style of judo with no competitive element. Then at the age of 15 I joined Neyland Judo Club and started competing with the Welsh Judo Association and British Judo Association. Judo has always been a part of my life, which is why I started to do it.

What was your reaction when you found out you’d been selected for the 2022 Commonwealth Games? What was your family and friends’ reaction?

I was very overwhelmed following selection for the Commonwealth due to Covid, it seemed like something that was getting further and further away. It’s always been a goal of mine to compete in the Commonwealth Games so it was a nice surprise to be successful with selections. 

My parents were extremely proud and there were some tears from myself and my parents. My close friends were super happy as they’ve seen how much effort I put into training and the build up to selections. 

What aspect of the Games are you most looking forward to most?

The aspect of the Games I look forward to most is the opening ceremony and being able to compete for Wales at a home games with family and friends in the crowd. 

Who has been your greatest mentor in your judo career so far?

My greatest mentor in my judo career I’ve had has probably been my dad as he always puts things into a good perspective.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from judo?

The greatest lesson I’ve learnt from judo is to show respect to all and to believe in myself. 

What is your fondest judo memory to date?

My fondest judo memory is being selected for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

What does wearing the Team Wales uniform and representing Wales mean to you?

Wearing the Team Wales kit and representing Wales is a dream come true. I’ve come from a passionate Welsh family, being a fluent Welsh speaker. It fills me with pride to be able to wear the Welsh dragon. 

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