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Curtis Dodge - Flipping from Judo to grappling with wrestling

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There are not many athletes who have represented their country at two different sports at the Commonwealth Games. Curtis Dodge has.

Not only that, but now he is competing in his third Games for Team Wales. 

Dodge started out as a judoka, training under his father’s mentorship in the Gower School of Judo. 

In Birmingham, he will again be wearing the red of Wales, but this time in wrestling.

Starting the sport of judo at the age of seven, Dodge competed at the Youth Olympics and won seven British Judo titles before heading the the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. 

In fact, his earliest memory of the sport was watching the 2000 Olympics with his father and siblings. 

“I was 100-miles-an-hour as a kid,” he says.

“I had plenty of energy to burn, but not enough discipline. 

“But I loved judo as I think it helped me with both of those things. Coming home from school to go down the club with my dad, was all I wanted to do. 

“I grew up with judo, going through national and international levels, all the way up to the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. 

“But after Glasgow, I just felt that I needed a bit of a change. I felt like I needed a new challenge.

“My father had a background in judo. He was my club coach right up until Glasgow pretty much. We are really close and he has done so much for me. 

“It’s hard to put into words the amount he has done. I have been doing little bits with my son, who is five, and I can see now from his perspective and how it was for him coaching me. 

“It was hard to understand what it was like on the other side, but from my perspective of being a child I didn’t know any difference.  He was always my coach, and that was that. 

“Any questions, advice or help, he was always there. It was like having your own personal coach on speed dial. Everything is out on the table, everyone knows where they are.

“I think that honesty was hugely beneficial.”

Dodge made the switch from Judo to wrestling and competed in his second Commonwealth Games in 2018, having only started wrestling 14 months beforehand.

Despite the odds that were stacked against him, he became acclimated to his new sport very quickly. 

The 29-year-old added: “I still enjoy martial arts and there are a lot of similarities, so it was a nice background to get into wrestling. 

“My mates were still competing at judo and I had that feeling in my stomach, I knew I had more in me. 

"I realised then that it was more of a case of me not being done with competing, but being done with judo. 

“It was between cycles, so it was always going to be difficult to reach those top levels. I didn’t have any intention originally to go for the Gold Coast, I just got stuck in. 

“I was trying to think about what to do next. I was searching for something that I'd be able to take my skills and experience into.

“As it has a lot of similarities and skills to judo, wrestling was the logical move. 

“I remember starting wrestling, vividly. I started training a week before my son was born and I just went for it. Looking back to that time, I probably had enough on my plate!” 

Curtis Dodge flexes his muscles in his Team Wales singlet.
Curtis Dodge looks ready for Birmingham 2022 in his Team Wales wrestling singlet.
I was trying to think about what to do next. I was searching for something that I'd be able to take my skills and experience into. As it has a lot of similarities and skills to judo, wrestling was the logical move.
Curtis Dodge

Not content with just the two sports, Dodge began training to compete in Mixed Martial Arts.

The former Gowerton Comprehensive School student competed in Bellator in 2020.

The switch and the circumstances serve as a reminder of the adaptability of Dodge’s skills as well as the fact that he enjoys a challenge. 

“I trained under John Kavanagh. It was unbelievable out in Dublin. Going into training there were just legitimate elite level fighters wherever you looked.

“There were no hobbyists in the session. I got on really well with John and I still go over there every so often. He’s a great guy.

“Sometimes, it can be difficult to separate the sports, fortunately they all have similar aspects, so it all helps. 

“They all bring benefits to each other, so it has worked pretty well.” 

Coming into his third Games before the age of 30, is no mean feat.

And with these Birmingham Games a relatively short distance from Wales, the Welsh wrestler is expecting strong Welsh support and is raring to get his account open. 

“Back in 2018, it was about focussing on my attributes from judo and using them to my advantage. 

“I had to give myself a bit of a crash course on the rest of the technical skills. It wasn’t easy. 

“With wrestling, a lot of it would have been second nature to the other athletes, but I had to consciously think about those processes. 

“It would have been difficult to find anyone in my competition who has more experience of competing than me. I have been competing since I was seven years old,.

“But it doesn't matter which sport it is, there's only three people in that ring and that never changes, whatever your experience. 

“The other guy wants to take my head off and I want to take his off. 

“I am always up for a little scuffle! 

“I am raring to go and just looking forward to getting stuck in now.

“The Games are only two hours away from home. I would say I’m going to have a small army coming to support, but it’s not even small anymore.

“I have got a sizeable chunk of the crowd all there ready to cheer me on!

So, what has changed across eight years and two sports?

“I’m a more complete fighter now than in the Gold coast. I am a far more complete wrestler than I was last time around. 

“I am far from over the hill, though. I have still got enough youth in me, but I have also got 22 years of competitive experience.

“So, combining all that has put me in a really good place.”

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