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The Independent Online
Judo players rarely attract lasting public attention, even when they are as good as Karen Briggs, whose record of four world titles between 1982 and 1989, all in the 48kg (7st) class, is the best for any British competitor. As a consequence, financial support - vital for a discipline that requires almost total commitment - is hard to find.

"It has been a bit of a struggle," she said. "I had a good sponsorship, but it took me three world titles to get it.'' She last competed at the top level at the Barcelona Olympics, where her hopes of a medal ended with a dislocated shoulder. The injury healed but, somewhere along the line, her appetite for competition was lost.

She officially retired last Christmas and now, in partnership with her husband, coaches judo in schools around her home town of Hull, which she hopes will help raise awareness of the sport as well as provide her with a living. "I recently spent five months in Tokyo," she said. "Big crowds watch judo there but everyone is taught it in schools, so they know what they are watching. Perhaps there would be more interest here if more people understood what was happening.'' She went as the first Westerner, male or female, to be invited to coach in Japan.

Married, since last August, to Peter Inman, whose father Roy is a former Great Britain team manager, she celebrates her 32nd birthday today.

Jon Culley