Sarah Hopkins is celebrating landing the prestigious British Judo Association masters player-of-the-year award.
The Gosport Judo Club member is a dominant force in her sport and enjoyed a glorious 2013.
Her crowning glory came at a glitzy ceremony at St George’s Park, in Burton upon Trent – the Football Association headquarters.
She was recognised as the top masters judo player, after winning the European title earlier this year in France.
Hopkins is also multiple British champion and lifted the world title in 2012.
But to be recognised by her peers for her achievements was something particularly special.
She said: ‘It was a wonderful night. Really cool.
‘I went up on stage and was presented with the award.
‘It’s the first time I have had a massive award like that.
‘As a masters squad we have been fairly successful, picking up medals.
‘My name was put forward to the masters commission and they picked me.’
Hopkins landed the F4 (45-49 years) European title at under-78kg (light-middleweight), when she defeated Marita Sachse, a strong German opponent, in the final in Paris.
She won with a waza-ari – the second highest scoring move in judo.
That came after winning world and commonwealth crowns in 2012.
‘The past two years have been my most successful really,’ said Hopkins.
‘In 2012 I went to the Miami worlds and won the gold there.
‘I won the commonwealth title in Wales and also won the British Masters title for the seventh time.
‘The first masters I won was the most memorable.
‘I beat a German in the final. She was a very, very strong player. I remember beating her, with a foot sweep.
‘In 2010 I didn’t defend the title but I won it again in 2011 in Frankfurt
‘It was really memorable for me. I went up a weight and I didn’t know what to expect.
‘I was still fighting just under the weight and to win was so pleasing.
‘Then I won it again at under-78kg in Miami.’
Hopkins puts in the hard yards with her intensive training at Gosport Judo Club.
She receives great support from her husband Derek and personal trainer Ben Williams.
Both have played key roles in the stunning run of success.
She said: ‘Things really started to improve for me, thanks to my personal trainer, Ben Williams.
‘He got me physically and mentally fit for every competition.’
Hopkins elected not to defend her world title in Abu Dhabi this year.
But she is considering going to the 2014 World Championships in Spain.
Meanwhile, she is also putting plenty back into the sport, coaching the next generation of impressive judo players coming through at the Gosport club, in Forton Road.
They certainly have an inspirational role model to look up to.
Hopkins said: ‘Gosport has a good structure – it’s one of the strongest clubs now.
‘We have some really good players we are bringing along.
‘The standard is amazing.’