THE pain has gone and St Helens' judoka Lucy Renshall can see clearly now the path to an Olympic medal.

Aged 14 the judo star etched her Olympic dreams in pencil on the inside of a cupboard at her parents’ house, an inscription she revisited as world number one in late 2022.

Renshall has all the talent but didn’t quite get the breaks in the early part of her career, particularly on Olympic debut in Tokyo, where she bombed out in the first round.

“Looking back, I was disappointed,” said the 27-year-old. “Being selected for the Olympics is one thing, but you’re not just there to be selected.

“In judo we compete all the time at world events and it’s normal but the Olympics wasn’t the norm. It all felt brand new.

“After a period of time, I realised I am now an Olympian and now I can change my goal. I knew I had more.”

Renshall roared back after Tokyo, taking medals in four of the five Grand Slam competitions that followed the Games.

That fearsome run of form took her to the top of the world rankings, the first Brit to get there in five years, where she was soon joined by team-mate and Olympic medallist Chelsie Giles.

She said: “I hit world number one halfway through the year and it was amazing. It proved to me that what I’m doing is right and the trust in my programme is there.

“It gave me a lot of confidence knowing I was going to events as world number one. It’s an extra special feeling.”

Renshall is now one of over 1,000 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing her to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering medical support – this is vital for her pathway to the Paris 2024 Games.

It’s nothing short of mind-boggling that Renshall could get so far while carrying an injury.

She had been assailed by shoulder pain for two years and aggravated the problem just days before the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, with immediate surgery required.

The physical issue has now been addressed once and for all - so it’s scary for the rest of the world what Renshall might now achieve, pain-free.

She said: “For the past two years, I’ve been struggling because I could train to a certain level and then the shoulder pain became too much and I had to take a few days off.

“After the surgery, it’s completely fine and in the long run, it’s really good.

“Sometimes in training, it was limiting because I couldn’t do too much with the pain. Now it’s all sorted, I can push myself to a higher level and train for longer. I can still definitely raise the bar, while training smart.”

With the Paris 2024 Olympics only one year away, the Games are set to inspire people and communities all across the country. Renshall hopes that by sharing her story it will give others motivation to get involved in sport.

Among those standing in Renshall’s way of a medal at -63kg could be France’s Clarisse Agbegnenou, who has dominated the weight division in recent years.

Agbegnenou has won five world titles and grabbed Olympic gold in Tokyo, since stepping away from the sport to become a mother.

“Clarisse is an outstanding fighter, but I know if I want to get where I want to get, I’ve got to beat her,” said Renshall.

“I just see her as any other athlete, I’ve got to plan how I would beat her, so hopefully on the day if it comes, we have a plan and can stick to it.

“Clarisse and I have fought three times now, the last one in 2020. She’s beaten me three times but they have been really close.

“I’m not too far off beating her. I’m confident that I’ve got a lot better since I last fought her. I think I’ve matured a bit in judo, I know what I want and how to get it.”

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