SHE may not have won a medal, but Team GB member Sarah Clark, from South Shields, has golden memories of London 2012.
The 34-year-old was beaten in the women’s under-57kg judo category at the first hurdle but, despite admitting to feeling “hollow” after the bout, which saw French fourth-seed Automne Pavia progress, Clark feels proud to have been part of the Great Britain set-up in her home country.
Clark, who lives and trains in Edinburgh, returned home after the closing ceremony to visit family and friends.
The former Whitburn Comprehensive School pupil said: “The build up to the games was really exciting, the team got to London on the Monday before the opening ceremony and began training in the build up.
“As well as that, we had to get our official team photos done and pick up our kit. It was a really strange experience and we also got measured for the outfits for the closing and opening ceremonies, which we had to keep top secret!”
Clark fought on day three of seven of the judo competition, and after the opening five minutes of the fight, there was no score, meaning the bout went into an additional period.
She lost the bout just seconds into the golden score period, meaning her Olympic dream died just minutes after it began.
With three Olympic Games behind her, she admits time is not on her side to bag a medal.
She said: “It was really disappointing.
“I know I’m a bit older, and it could be my last chance, but I’m not making any decisions yet.
“After working up to the games for so long, of course I was devastated when I lost, but there was nothing I could do about it so I had to get on with it, support my team-mates and try to enjoy the rest of the games.
“I felt hollow immediately after but that’s the nature of sport. Someone has to lose.”
One thing that Clark did enjoy was the support from the home crowd.
She said: “It was weird, I didn’t really notice the crowd when I was waiting in the tunnel, or when I came out, but my coach asked me after what I thought.
“Then I realised just how loud it was when I was out there.
“There must have been at least 4,000 cheering.
“It’s not like any other experience I’ve had.”
Clark spent the rest of the tournament watching other sports and saw Nicola Adams make history by being the first women to win a boxing gold at the Olympics, and watched Mo Farah qualify for the 5,000m final.
She said: “This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and it was a great feeling being part of Team GB on our home turf.
“Everyone put in great performances, and I know everyone has said it, but so did the crowd and the volunteers.
“Everyone was so friendly, and by the end, the stadiums were full from the moment they opened until the very last event.
“I’ve never seen that before.
“It was amazing to be part of.”
London 2012 might have been a roller coaster of emotions for Sarah Clark, but as part of the successful Team GB she has secured her place in the history books.
And she epitomises the Bishop Ethelbert Talbot’s Olympic Creed, which he read in a speech at a service for Olympic champions during the 1908 games: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.
“The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”
Whether Clark returns in Rio 2016, she has done herself, her nation and her borough proud.