INJURED judo ace Ben Quilter says his Paralympics bronze medal means more than the gold would have done if he had been fit.
The University of Chichester student put in a heroic performance in the ExCel Centre to take bronze just seven weeks after a serious knee injury that threatened to end his Games dream.
Although he lost his first fight, he beat every other opponent he faced to salvage his place on the podium.
Quilter, 30, who is due to graduate from Chichester later this year with a masters in sport and exercise physiology, said his medal was going everywhere with him at the moment - and he had never had so much attention from friends or strangers.
“All the judo took place across one day and it’s a bit of blur to be honest. I’ve haven’t watched the footage back yet – not even of the bronze-medal fight – but I will. I want to relive it and to analyse how I performed.”
Quilter damaged knee ligaments in what he called a ‘freak judo accident’ in July – the same day he had filmed a video diary for Channel 4 saying injury was his biggest fear leading up to the Games.
After intensive treatment he was declared fit for last Thursday’s fights – although he said had it been any lesser event, he’d have pulled out.
“Even on the day I didn’t know how the knee would fare. I’d not tested it with competitive judo,” he said.
“I still thought I could win gold but I think I was kidding myself. After I lost my first fight I sat down with my coach and we looked at who else I’d face and we decided to carry on.
“To win bronze and get on the podium was amazing and the crowd were phenomenal. My coach said the bronze gained while injury meant more than gold would have done if I’d been fit and I think he’s right.
“Since then it’s been hectic. I’ve done a live stage appearance in the Paralympic park and a few TV interviews.”
Quilter now plans a break from judo while he knee is operated on and then recovers - but that doesn’t mean he’s in for a quiet time of it.
“I’m getting married to my fiancee, Francecsa, in five weeks. At least I can concentrate on that and look forward to it now,” he said.
He will gauge his recuperation before deciding which big judo event to take part in next – with the 2013 world championships a possibility.