Natalie Powell: Welsh judoka 'like new person' without Rio pressure
Welsh judoka Natalie Powell says she is relishing the chance to compete without the pressure of Olympic selection.
Powell, 26, had to beat off competition from British teammate and London 2012 silver medallist Gemma Gibbons to win her place in Rio.
At the time she said the extra pressure made her stronger, but now she admits it has taken its toll.
"I feel like a new person," she told BBC Wales Sport, ahead of the European Judo Championships in Poland.
She continued: "I didn't realised how stressed I was at the time until I came out the other side. Right now I feel relaxed and excited to get going again."
'Not in right frame of mind'
The Builth Wells judoka finished seventh at the Rio Olympics in the 78kg category but felt she would have done better with more preparation time.
"After such a hard qualification period, it was really hard to get myself back in the right frame of mind to compete at the Games," she said. "It was only two months to go after I knew I'd been selected.
"Mentally it was a really challenging period but when I look back, I've learnt a lot from it.
"This cycle I'm looking at the Games from the start, rather than just qualifying. I want to win it in Tokyo. I don't really want to go just to say I've been to another Games."
Going for European gold
After securing her funding for the next Olympic cycle, Powell has moved to Walsall full time to be closer to British Judo HQ and in September she will begin a masters in elite coaching.
But now she says she just wants to start competing again, starting with the European Championships in Warsaw, Poland on Thursday.
"My aim is to win the Championships," said Powell - a bronze medallist at the event in 2016.
"But I'm just going to take it fight by fight. I think sometimes if you get too caught up in the results, your performance doesn't follow so I'm just going to focus on what I do best."
No chance of the Commonwealth Games
The European and World Championships will be key for Powell between now and Tokyo.
The 2014 Commonwealth champion won't be able to defend her title on the Gold Coast next year as judo hasn't been included in the programme.
"It would be nice to compete in Australia. But it just means I'll be reigning champion for eight years instead," she joked. "So I'm not complaining."