Ambitious Leigh prepares for the next stage of the judo journey

Passionate musician Caitlin Leigh hopes to continue hitting all the right notes on the judo mat as she prepares for the next leg on a road she hopes will lead to Los Angeles.

The 18-year-old Blackburn ace recently completed his A-Levels at St Wilfrid’s C of E Academy and will begin a degree in sports and exercise therapy at the University of Wolverhampton, which is also home to the National Center judo later this month.

Leigh, who was born with congenital glaucoma, missed her chance to win a fifth national title at the VI Nationals (Visually Impaired) last weekend due to illness, but plans to continue pursuing her two passions in the years to come.

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“Judo and music are my two things that give me a break from the world,” she said.

“I’ve always loved playing and listening, and I’ve written a few of my own songs.

“I’ve played outside my school and at Band on the Wall, a pretty big venue in Manchester. I get the same feelings of excitement about being on stage and on the [judo] carpet.

“I use music to get me in the zone before judo and I listen to Whatever It Takes by Imagine Dragons – that’s always been my motto.

“For the future, music will be something I enjoy and judo will be my main focus. My training will increase when I go to college because I have access to judo on campus, and it’s it’s just about gaining experience and getting stronger.

“The overall goal is to go to the Paralympics, hopefully in LA [in 2028].”

Leigh began her judo journey aged five and identifies being in the crowd for Sam Ingram’s silver medal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games as the moment that sparked her own ambition to compete on the biggest stage.

She already has silver medals at the 2019 Commonwealth Championships and the 2020 VI German Open under her belt and credits the twin influences of Olympian Sophie Cox, her Bacup Judo Club trainer and guide dog Honey for propelling it to even greater heights.

“Sophie has taken it upon herself to put me on a gym schedule, she’s always checking on me to see how I’m doing and if I ever need to talk,” she said.

“If we have to talk about competitions or goals, she is always there to help me achieve them.

“Having a guide dog also helps me improve my judo. As a visually impaired person, I often walk with my head down to see where I’m going – this bad posture transferred into my judo.

“Since I have Honey it has made me straighter and it helps my judo a lot.”

Leigh’s ambitions are boosted by funding from a partnership between SportsAid and Pitching In, a multi-million pound grassroots sports investment scheme established by Entain.

She is one of 50 athletes receiving financial support through the initiative and said: “It’s really helpful.

“It allows me to go to competitions and have all the equipment to try to improve.

“They [SportsAid] also held some great workshops – we had nutritionists, sleep specialists and other things we wouldn’t normally have access to as young athletes.”

Entain, owner of Ladbrokes and Coral, is proud to champion the next generation of British sporting heroes by providing talented young athletes with financial support and personal development opportunities in partnership with SportsAid. Visit entaingroup.com to learn more

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