6 min read

Ebony’s Commonwealth success

Like many of the University’s sports students, Ebony Drysdale-Daley, who studied Sports Exercise Science from 2013-2018, has worked hard to gain success in her career. Unlike all, however, she’s been able to enjoy competitive success in judo, winning on home ground during the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022.

We caught up with the medal-winner to hear her experiences and find out what’s next.

Q: Tell us about your time at Wolverhampton

Being a Wolverhampton student played a massive part in my development. I was able to complete my studies and train simultaneously. I simply wouldn’t have been able to forge the career I now have without the University’s support, facilities and staff. Being able to train and study at that time in my life was invaluable. Education was very much a pressure outside my athletic career: having both my education and training in one place had a very positive impact on my sporting performances.

Q: How did you find combining your studies with training and competing?

David Elmore, Wayne Macca and Fitzroy Davies were a critical part of how I navigated my studies and career. Competing in domestic competitions really helped my confidence. Being able to use the on-site facilities, doing indoor circuits, and using the courts both outdoors and inside (mainly for recovery days) was brilliant – though the running track wasn’t my favourite! All these things made my days lighter and my prospects better. The facilities and staff made a real difference, especially the onsite labs.

When I had my first major injury (medial crucial ligament surgery) the University accommodated my recovery. They gave me extenuating circumstances for my incomplete study and work, changed my halls residency and gave me a downstairs room so I wouldn’t have to manage stairs. I will forever be grateful for it.

Q: You must be proud to be a Commonwealth Games medallist – how does it feel?

I am very proud to be a Commonwealth Games medallist! It really does feel special for many reasons. I won Jamaica’s first medal for judo in history; having the Games held in Birmingham, where I was born and have lived my entire life; and for my Jamaican heritage, as I’m first generation British through my father, and second generation through my mother.

I will always cherish the memory of having family come to watch me who had never seen me compete: my 5-year-old nephew, my uncle who never has a day off work, my parents, siblings and my best friend with her little girl. People who I hadn’t seen in years in the judo community and perfect strangers were cheering for me. It was really good for the soul and honestly gave me a day that I will always love: all the hugs and my family’s pride.

Q: Did you feel any extra pressures competing on home ground? What was the crowd like?

I didn’t want to disappoint my family or waste their time coming to watch me. The first time I walked out I couldn’t even look at them! My priority was just to focus on my match: I almost got irritated, but only because I wasn’t used to it and wanted to remain professional and didn’t want to be thrown off my focus. After my matches I settled and ultimately it was lovely to have so much love, support and enthusiasm behind me! To feel the love coming through the crowds will always be special.

At the time it was very hard to get past the nerves on the actual day and every match was a challenge to just get past my breathing. There was pressure on me to produce a medal outside Jamaica’s athletics wins: I was told judo needed a medal. The Games had been running for over a week with no medal haul. Athletics was, of course, destined to improve results considerably (with the world’s best). But those of us on other sports had caused quite a stir, ‘taking up’ valuable athletic spaces. With no results for the entire week before athletics, the heat was definitely on to justify not just myself, but my sport, as well as judo’s inclusion for current and future events.

Q: Are there any other achievements you’re
particularly proud of? What’s next?

When I was still studying at the University of Wolverhampton, I won my first major medal: Junior World silver 2014. Then over a year out of competition, with real doubts and struggles after surgery, my first medal was the Senior European Cup Gold in 2016.

Since the Commonwealth Games I’ve been training and scouting for sponsorship. Believe it or not my results haven’t improved my funding! My days consist of gym, judo and working at a hotel. I love sleeping, I’m always tired! I’m also always hungry, so eating. I like to go for walks in the fresh air, as I don’t get a lot of it in the city. Listening to music and podcasts keeps me sane.

Later this year I have Caribbean and Central American Games qualifiers.

My goals for the year are:

  • Caribbean and Central America Games, qualify and medal
  • Qualify World Championships and gain a result
  • Qualify for the Pan American Games and medal
  • Pan American Championships and medal