By Tom Harle
Hot judo prospect Charlotte Jenman could get used to the feeling of toppling the best in the world.
The Dartford star has enjoyed a breakthrough year with bronze at the U18 European Championships and a handful of medals on the European Cup circuit.
Jenman, 17, collected her Championship honour the hard way, bouncing back to beat world No.1 Michela Terranova having fouled out of her semi-final.
She said: “I had a few training camps before the Europeans, my coach has some good contacts and he made sure my preparation was ideal.
“I felt great going out there and I knew I was going there to win a medal. I was really happy with my performances, it was one of my best of the year.
“I was really disheartened after the semi-final, it’s the worst way to lose. I’d always rather get thrown.
“I had the problem of coming back from defeat but I also had the problem of facing the best fighter in the world. She’d won every single gold medal in the season.
SportsAid is delighted to reveal the 🔟 talented young athletes on the shortlist for the One-to-Watch Award 2022 🏆
The annual award shines a spotlight on the incredible achievements of Britain’s brightest sporting prospects 👏
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— SportsAid (@TeamSportsAid) November 1, 2022
“Watching the video back you can see I couldn’t believe I beat her. When I threw her, they didn’t give a score, but when they did, it felt incredible.
“I think people now see me as that player to watch. It makes me happy that they see me like that and makes me want to keep working, so they’re still watching out for me.”
One of Jenman’s key strengths is the variety of her judo, equally adept at ground grappling techniques known as ‘ne-waza’ and eye-catching throws.
She credits her father, Jack, for getting her started in the sport and first coach Andy Dodds for helping her believe she could reach the top.
“Andy turned around and said to Dad, ‘she’s naturally gifted, she has it.’” Jenman remembers. “From then on, people saw the potential in me.
“When you hear those words, it makes your day as a child and knowing that they thought I could go far. The Olympics feel so far away but you start to feel it’s not impossible.”
Jenman then went on to feature for Team GB at the European Youth Olympic Festival in Banská Bystrica, Slovakia.
The teenager relished her first taste of the five-ring circus.
She said: “It was like the real thing, just for kids. It was brilliant.
“I made some brilliant friends there. The atmosphere was so different to what I’m used to at judo competitions, we travelled around and cheered our team-mates on.
“I might not have come away with a medal but I came away with some good friends and just having the best experience.”
Jenman’s superb 2022 has been rewarded with nomination for SportsAid’s annual One-to-Watch Award, shortlisted in the top 10 from a raft of 1,000 young athletes supported by the charity across 60 different sports.
The award was launched in 2006 to shine a spotlight on the outstanding achievements of Britain’s brightest young prospects, with Tom Daley, Hollie Arnold, Courtney Tulloch, Amber Hill, Morgan Lake and Alex Yee among the former winners.
Jenman, who received her SportsAid support through the Backing The Best programme this year, said: “It’s honestly a brilliant feeling.
“Some amazing athletes are part of SportsAid and it’s great that my achievements this year have shone through.
“You see the Olympians and medallists who have won it before - I’m not at that level yet, but it’s very inspiring, it’s unreal.”
The winner of SportsAid’s prestigious One-to-Watch Award will be revealed at the charity’s Celebrate the Next event, supported by Royal Bank of Canada, in London on Thursday 17 November. Please visit www.sportsaid.org.uk for further information.