Potts set for Heart of England test

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Sam Potts is aiming for a hat-trick of rankings title victories as he eyes Heart of England Open glory in Walsall.

The Great Britain judo star, from Locks Heath, has been in excellent form in 2014.

He’s already secured the London Senior Open title and won the Western Area Open.

Since finishing university in May, Potts has been back on the south coast, training at his home club in Gosport.

He’s now looking forward to some fierce battles in the Heart of England event, when he competes on Sunday.

Potts said: ‘The Heart of England is quite a major national ranking competition.

‘That’s the next one and that’s quite an important one.

‘It’s one of the stronger national ranked ones. It’s quite central in the midlands so everyone comes from all over.

‘I expect the other big names in my weight group to be there. It will be a tough day.

‘The national ranking ones I have done this year have gone well, like the London, which I won for the second year in a row. I was happy with that.

‘Then the Western Area ranking competition, which I won again.’

Potts is confident his form and fitness is good.

He had a difficult start to the year with glandular fever setting him back.

But his recovery has been excellent.

Potts added: ‘At the beginning of the year having glandular fever was a setback and then coming back from that.

‘Some people say it can take years to get over.

‘I wouldn’t say my fitness or strength was any different, though. Maybe even better than before. I have come back quite strong and I’m feeling good.’

Potts is hoping to return to Bath where he was training full-time while at university.

He now needs to find a job to fund his living costs but also allow him to do the training required to ensure he can continue to make a big impact in judo.

It’s an important step because he’s still a first year senior with the Great Britain squad and needs to catch the eye in competitions to be selected to travel abroad.

Potts said: ‘Because judo is not such a popular sport within the UK, the funding is not much.

‘It is expensive with living, training costs and everything.

‘I’m a first year senior and it’s only really the number one and two ranked players that get a look in for competitions abroad.

‘I need to keep my ranking and show that I’m there.

‘I’m looking for a job that will allow me to fund living in Bath but still allow me enough time to train as much as I can.

‘It’s hard to find something with the right hours that is flexible enough to allow me to train as much as I can.

‘Hopefully in September I will be able to go back.’

Gosport coach Sarah Hopkins has been pleased to have Potts back at the club this summer.

She believes the work he has put in will pay off to ensure he’s challenging the top guys in the Heart of England competition.

Hopkins said: ‘I think Sam will be right there.

‘He will come away pretty pleased because of the quality of training he has done.’