WHAT TEAM ENGLAND MEANS TO ME....WITH NEKODA SMYTHE-DAVIS

British judoka Nekoda Smythe-Davis knows exactly how special it is to represent Team England at a Commonwealth Games. Nekoda claimed a memorable gold medal - her first senior title - in the women’s lightweight category at Glasgow 2014 - the last major Games to be held on British soil. Nekoda, who represented Team GB at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, reflects on her Commonwealth Games experience with great pride and affection.
27 June, 2022

British judoka Nekoda Smythe-Davis knows exactly how special it is to represent Team England at a Commonwealth Games. Nekoda claimed a memorable gold medal - her first senior title - in the women’s lightweight category at Glasgow 2014 - the last major Games to be held on British soil.

The 28-year-old from London followed up that success in subsequent years with a huge array of podium finishes at Grand Prix and Grand Slam events around the world. Two of Nekoda’s biggest achievements to date have seen her secure podium finishes at the IJF World Judo Championships - claiming bronze in Budapest in 2017 before taking silver in Baku in 2018.

Nekoda, who also represented Team GB at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, particularly reflects on her Commonwealth Games experience with great pride and affection.

“Representing Team England gave me massive pride, probably more so than anything else at that stage of my career," said Nekoda. 

“I didn’t realise how much it was going to mean to me until I arrived at the Games. Once you see the Village and everything that goes into putting on the Games, it brings it all home.

“You are hugely valued and considered important to be part of Team England. Everything is put into perspective, and you just feel part of something really special."

Nekoda claimed one of the six Commonwealth golds won by Team England in 2014 after defeating Scottish fighter Stephanie Inglis in the 57kg category. Team England showed their domination with the squad topping the overall leaderboard, adding four silvers and three bronzes to beat host nation Scotland.

“For me and my team-mates, winning our medals for the team also created such a buzz around our sport afterwards,” she said. “In judo we aren’t used to that, and I was 21 at that time so had never experienced anything like it. That interest made it even more of a memorable experience.

“Winning my gold was just a huge relief. Once I won, I could enjoy the Games even more. That gold was my first taste of competing at the highest level and was the best experience I’ve had in my sport so far. It will always be a massive highlight in my career.

“Not only did the Games mean our judo team came together cohesively, but the other sports as well. Getting behind each other became so much more important than at normal Championships where you are just fighting for yourself in a sense."

Team England was the most successful country overall in 2014, winning 58 golds, 59 silvers and 57 bronzes - but it was the team environment that made the Commonwealths so special to Nekoda.

“Collectively as Team England, you just had so much respect and support for anyone else walking around in that team tracksuit. You start to keep track of results from other sports, how well we’re doing as a team and that creates a unique environment.

“That team feeling and spirit gave me so much motivation as well. You can lose that a little when you are competing individually for a month or two on the road.

“But when I was part of Team England, where every medal counts, it gave you extra incentive and you get team-mates coming up to you congratulating you after. It just makes this event very special.

“Even the build-up gets you in the best mindset possible. Before the event I went to Kitting Out – for a lot of us it was the first time we had done it. It was my first time for a multi-sport event and that was amazing in itself.

“It’s the same in the Athletes Village, the buzz of the place is like nothing else I’ve experienced, it’s a surreal whirlwind seeing so many other athletes.

“Taking part in the Games for Team England makes the sacrifices worthwhile. Once you are there, regardless of the result in my opinion, you have a blast.

“It is so exciting to have a Commonwealth Games at home this summer. Even just to have one in the UK again - we have been waiting eight years for that. Birmingham 2022 is going to be incredible!”

Commonwealth Games England has appointed SportsAid to lead on the development, management and operational delivery of Team England Futures at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. The programme, supported by Sport England, will reinforce the importance of the Commonwealth Games, particularly one hosted on home soil, as a developmental opportunity within the talent and performance pathway!