Karina Bryant: 'It is gold to me'

An Olympic medal was the one medal she did not have - but veteran British judo heavyweight Karina Bryant changed all that as she took bronze today.

And while she may not have been at the top of the podium, the bronze was as good as a gold for the 33-year-old, who has chased an elusive medal at three previous Games.

Olympic victory may have seemed far away at times, as Bryant was sidelined by a neck injury for months last year, and later reportedly had to appeal for money from the public so she could buy a new car to get to training.

Karina Bryant
Karina Bryant on top during her win over Slovakia's Lucija Polavder Credit: Press Association

But the four-time European Champion and five-time world silver medallist today finally claimed a coveted medal after triumphing in the bronze fight against Ukraine's Iryna Kindzerska.

Cheers filled the ExCeL centre's North Arena 2 just 24 hours after fellow judoka Gemma Gibbons took silver, ending Britain's 12-year quest for Olympic success.

"Deep down in my heart I really wanted to go out there and do myself justice. I have had an amazing career, but this was the one medal I did not have," said Bryant, who has often spoken of her desire to get an elusive Olympic medal.

"It is not the right colour, but it is gold to me, because I could not have done any more today."I fought a fantastic semi-final, but the Japanese girl is a great fighter.

Karina Bryant
Karina Bryant celebrates winning the bronze medal Credit: Press Association

"I was not disappointed, because I felt like I had given it everything."

Born in 1979 in Kingston-upon-Thames, Bryant joined Camberley Judo club aged 10 and by 1996 was the junior world champion.

Despite a flurry of European and world medals and competing in three previous Games, she has never managed to add an Olympic medal to her collection.

In 2003 she was voted European female judo player of the year and was in The Sunday Times top 10 sportswomen of the year, and the following year was named in the Daily Mail's top 100 list of inspirational heroines.

But it hasn't all been plain sailing - Bryant was sidelined by a neck injury for the first half of 2011, but battled back to top form.

Karina Bryant
Karina Bryant on the podium Credit: Press Association

"While I have probably got another year or two, to go on a four-year Olympic cycle is definitely out.

"To be able to go to London is amazing, we never thought we would be able to compete at a home Olympic Games.

"The Olympics is the only medal I do not have. There have been chances before, but I have not been able to take them, so to be able to walk away with an Olympic medal in London would be the icing on the cake for my career."

Watch her friends going wild at the Camberley Judo Club