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Silver lining for Gemma Howell at the Commonwealth Games

A roller-coaster career that almost ended six years ago was another silver lining for Gemma Howell after narrowly missing out on a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.

The 32-year-old from Stafford lost by ippon to Canada’s Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard in the women’s -63kg final at the Coventry Arena after the competition resulted in a gold result.

It was the second time the two fighters had engaged in an epic showdown this year, with Howell claiming victory in the semifinals of the Tel Aviva Grand Slam in February.

But after Howell overcame a series of injuries to play her first Commonwealth Games after missing Glasgow 2014 with a knee injury, Howell took comfort in her silver medal

“We’ve already fought this year and it went up to eight minutes, so I always knew it was going to be a close fight,” said Howell, who dropped from 70kg to 63kg after the Tokyo cycle and is one of over 1,100 top athletes in UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded world-class programme, enabling them to train full-time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from cutting-edge technology, science and medical support.

“It was always a neck-and-neck race – last time it was my turn, this time she won. I would have preferred the Commonwealths but I tried my best.”

Howell has undergone a remarkable ten surgeries during her career in the quest for fame, with a neck surgery in 2018 even coming with a life-loss of possible paralysis.

The two-time Olympian even considered quitting her sport amid her injury hell, but showed her potential by taking gold for her first major title at this year’s European Championships.

And the chance to fight again in front of a home crowd in Birmingham 2022 was an experience Powell cherished as she defeated Welsh judoka Jasmine Hacker-Jones and Australia’s Katharina Haecker to seize her chance at the top step of the to land on the podium.

“It was like an extra pair of lungs,” added Howell, who, on the advice of her trainer and exercise science team, lowered the weight classes when asked about the amount.

“I don’t think you can imagine how great it’s going to be, but it really gives you the creeps and the drive to make it even better. It makes everything worthwhile. My career has been a roller coaster ride.

“I thought I was going to quit in 2016 and I don’t know how I managed to keep going, but I did it. I couldn’t be more grateful to those who kept me going as this year I achieved three of my career goals.”

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