SARAH HOPKINS celebrated landing The News 2013 sportswoman of the year award and admitted: It’s the cherry on top of a fantastic year.
The Gosport Judo Club member is a dominant force in her sport and enjoyed a glorious 2013.
Her crowning glory came in November at a glitzy ceremony at St. George’s Park – Football Association headquarters.
Hopkins was recognised as the top masters judo player in Britain, after winning the F4 (45-49 years) European title at under-78kg category in Paris last June, defeating German Marita Sachse in the final.
She said: ‘It’s been a tough year for me, as I took some time out.
‘But I won the Europeans which was pretty tough, although beating the Germans is always the best!
‘To be honest, it was a bit nervewracking, being honoured at St. George’s Park.
‘But when you’ve supported your judo association for so long, to have people recognise you’re pretty good at what you do is quite humbling.
‘And to be crowned The News sportswoman of the year is another proud moment.’
Hopkins was quick to pay tribute to the support she receives from Gosport Judo Club, her husband John and personal trainer Ben Williams.
It’s a shared tale of success, which begins with a 6.30am wake-up alarm.
Hopkins revealed: ‘My routine begins with me being up at half six in the morning and getting my personal trainer to help me out before I go off for a full day’s work.
‘Then in the evenings, I’ll go to the gym, go to judo, do my training and do coaching as well – so it’s pretty full on.
‘I couldn’t do it without the support of my husband, my personal trainer and Gosport Judo Club.
‘This award makes it all worthwhile.
‘It’s nice to be recognised for something that you have been doing since you were 15 years old.’
The physical exertions in such a demanding sport are obvious for all too see.
But Hopkins also revealed the importance of the support she receives away from the mat.
‘Early mornings and tough training sessions in the gym or down at the judo club are part and parcel of the sport,’ she said.
‘But there are also psychological demands as well.
‘Sometimes you can have your down weeks and then you have your good weeks, or injury or illness can knock you back – it’s pretty tough.
‘That’s why I’m so grateful for the support of my team.’
And with body and mind in tune, Hopkins is targeting another big and busy year in competition.
The 2012 world masters champion elected not to defend her crown last year in Abu Dhabi.
But with the 2014 championships held on the continent in Malaga, Spain, it could be time to make more space on the Hopkins mantelpiece.
She added: ‘My plans for 2014 are to get back into competitive action.
‘I went to Lille, France, at the beginning of the year and won the Eurometropole masters.
‘I’ve got Belgium soon (Brussels masters) and then I’ll go to Prague in June to fight in the Europeans, hopefully, before reclaiming my world title in Malaga in September.
‘And then the ideal way to end the year would be to crown it with a win at the British Championships in October.’
Meanwhile, City of Portsmouth athlete Mandy Gault was runner-up in the category, following a memorable 2013 on the track.
The 400m hurdler is now hoping to use her county and national success as a springboard to this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
The Absolute Running-sponsored athlete said: ‘It was a breakthrough year for me.
‘I hope my form will see me compete alongside some of the world’s best at this summer’s Commonwealth Games for Northern Ireland.’