Despite being three years younger than most of her opponents, judo marvel Lily Rafferty roared to a fantastic British bronze medal, writes Craig Goldthorp.
The 11-year-old Lanark Grammar S1 pupil won three under-52kg bouts in wonderful style in Sheffield last weekend before narrowly losing her semi-final contest.
Her proud dad Mark, who watched proceedings with his wife Shirley (Lily’s mum) told the Carluke and Lanark Gazette: “This was the first time Lily had competed at a British Championships so getting a bronze medal surpassed all expectations.
“Lily is naturally very strong and keeps a calm head.
“She is like an anaconda snake when she jumps on her opponent and holds her on the mat.
“It’s like she’s wrapping her prey up and squeezing them!
“Lily’s strength usually means that even the older girls are unable to break free of this hold.”
Lily, who competes in the pre cadet section, will only turn 12 on December 21 which means that she can compete in the same category at the British Championships for another three years.
“Hopefully she can return next year and become British champion or at least a silver medallist,” Mark added.
“There is no reason why not as she nearly won this year.
“Lily now has another year to build up her strength and technique, so there is nothing to stop her.”
Lily, who lives with her family in Carstairs, is dedicated to her judo and trains four nights a week with her club Destination Judo, as well as on Wednesday nights with the Talent Development Scotland team.
During a fantastic 2018, Lily has also landed gold medals at the Scottish Championship and Scottish Grand Prix.
This is remarkable, as she’s only been doing the Japanese martial art for four years after first taking it up in unusual circumstances!
“Lily got into judo completely by chance,” added Mark (51). “We used to go swimming at the Xcite Gym in Livingston on a Friday night.
“One night there were children coming out of a judo class as she was coming out of the swimming and she decided she wanted to give it a go.”
Next year looks set to be another exciting one for Lily in judo cicrles as she prepares to compete at the Irish Open and English Open in early 2019.
Judo can be gruelling. Although Lily’s bouts are only scheduled to last two minutes each, if no-one scores it goes to a ‘Golden Score’ which can last a long time until somebody finally gets a winning submission.