'Deep down I have always wanted to say thank you to my mum,' Team GB judo star Gemma Gibbons on that touching Olympic tribute to her late mother
14:52 GMT, 16 August 2012
Three weeks ago most people in Britain had never heard the word judoka, but blonde judoka Gemma Gibbons put that word and the sport of Judo on the map when she took surprise silver at the Olympics, and mouthed a tribute to her late mother that touched the hearts of the nation.
Ranked 42nd in the world 25-year-old Gemma was not expected to come home with a medal from London 2012, in fact she wasn't even supposed to make it past the qualifying rounds, but the South-East Londoner defied expectations to beat the world champion in the semi-finals and become the first British woman to win a medal for judo in over 12 years.
Amazingly the medal was her first ever win in a senior competition – and she used the moment to say thank you to the mother that started her judo dream almost twenty years earlier and sadly died of leukaemia when Gemma was just 17-years-old.
Gemma Gibbons mouths 'I love you mum' to the heavens after defeating France's Audrey Tcheumeo in their women's -78kg semi-final
The moment Gemma realises that she has beaten France's Audrey Tcheumeo and is on her way to the final
Gemma says: 'It was a personal moment. It wasn’t something I had planned, it just happened, an instant reaction to winning the semi-final.
'Deep down I’ve always wanted to say thank you to my mum. I was 17 when she died and a bit of a pain in the backside.
'I wasn’t thinking about all the people watching. It was only in the days afterwards that I realised the whole country had seen that personal moment.'
Gemma's mother Jeannette, a single mother and a nursey nurse was diagnosed with cancer when Gemma was 16 and passed away nine months later.
Gemma Gibbons, of Great Britain, kisses her silver medal after the women's 78-kg judo competition
The Olympic star, who was an only child, credits her fitness-fanatic mother with introducing her to the sport that is now making her famous, telling The Sun newspaper: 'Mum did everything she could to help me succeed in judo.
'She could see I was good at it and she wanted me to succeed. She
competed in athletics at county level when she was younger but she was
one of six children and the family didn’t have much money, so she didn’t
really have the support to progress.
'I think that’s why she wanted to put everything into my judo. She never spent a penny on herself, everything went on me.'
Gemma, who is from Charlton South-East London, just a few miles from the Olympic park, has another reason to like judo: her boyfriend of four years 33-year-old Euan Burton is also a Team GB judoka.
Unfortunately Euan crashed out early on in the Games, but was on hand to support Gemma throughout, tweeting his admiration of his silver-medal-winning girlfriend and also pictures of her bruised and battered hand gushing: 'She won silver fighting four of five fights like this!'
Gemma and boyfriend Euan Burton pictured together at the closing ceremony
Now the couple are excitedly planning a move to Edinburgh, and of course their trip to Rio in four years time.
Gemma, who now has over 28,000 followers on Twitter says she hopes that her win encourages more young people and especially women to take up the sort.
She says: Loads of people have sent me messages on Twitter and Facebook saying they didn’t know what judo was before and now they’ve signed up to their first lesson, which is fantastic. Fingers crossed, participation will increase and we’ll do even better in Rio.
And says there's an unexpected bonus for girls taking up the sport: 'You get a real buzz from taking part. When you’re young, girls and boys fight each other — so girls could have the chance to beat up the boys.
'That was definitely something I enjoyed when I was younger.'
Gemma at 18 pictured at her Blackheath judo club where she trained for the Olympics