Judo: Natalie Powell 'stronger' for knee injury lay-off

Natalie Powell (R)
Natalie Powell (right) is a member of Irfon Judo club, based in Powys

Wales' Natalie Powell says she has returned "stronger" from a knee injury as she bids for a place in Great Britain's 2016 Rio Olympics Judo squad.

Powell, 25, is back in action at the Havana Grand Prix at the weekend, competing with England's Gemma Gibbons for Team GB's -78kg ticket to Rio.

She has been absent for 10 weeks and said: "That nice little break has made me come back a lot stronger."

Powell wants success in Cuba ahead of the Paris Grand Slam on 6-7 February.

The 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medalist's main rival for the only Team GB slot available for Rio is London 2012 Games silver-medalist Gibbons.

Powell is currently eighth in the International Judo Federation rankings, with Gibbons 16th.

But mid-Wales bred Powell acknowledges much can change before selection for Rio is finalised and says the competition with Gibbons has its benefits.

"In the long term it just pushes you to get better," said Powell.

"It would be great to be on top of the podium in Cuba. That's obviously my aim, but Paris is the main one (for rankings points)."

Powell says her recent injury lay-off was the result of an arduous 2015, adding: "Looking at it now, having a rest was probably the best thing for me.

"I had such a busy year last year and I probably did a bit too much and it's probably why I got injured."

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