SHE may now call Essex home but Todmorden remains very much in Commonwealth Games gold-medal hopeful Faith Pitman’s heart.

And how could it not be when the market town was the place where the 29-year-old kick started a judo career which she aims to cap with a memorable victory in Glasgow next week?

“My parents still live there, my brother lived there until he went to the Army and I’ve still got a lot of family and friends in the area, so I’m still very much connected to it,” said Pitman, who will go for gold on Friday in the women’s -63kg category.

“It’s where it all started for me. As a kid I had this dream of going to the Olympic Games – as a gymnast.

“But the only problem was, I was really, really bad at gymnastics!

“But my brother started judo and for a while I did judo with him, on and off, before I eventually gave up gymnastics.

“From then on it was just judo, judo, judo. I absolutely loved it – it was just for me.

“Not that the gymnastics didn’t help me. I only started judo at 11, which is quite late, but having a gymnastic background did help me when I joined Todmorden Judo Club.

“It was a good, family club and it really brought me on and kick started my judo.

“It was a great starting base.”

Pitman spent five years with Todmorden Judo Club before leaving at the age of 16 to train full time at Bisham Abbey with British Judo.

She has not looked back since and last year, after taking a break from the sport after missing out on selection for the London 2012 Olympics, she was crowned British champion in 2013.

The former Todmorden High School student is now based in north-east London and trains out of the West Essex Judo Club, which is run by her boyfriend Thomas Cousins.

Cousins won a silver medal in Manchester at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, the last time judo featured at the multi-sport extravaganza.

Pitman knows all about the pressures of the big stage.

She finished seventh in the 2009 World Championships and won GB World Cup gold and Super World Cup bronze in the same year.

But she will never have fought at an event the size of the Commonwealth Games.

She will therefore turn to Cousins, who she met when he was a judo player more than a decade ago, for advice.

But she insists she will be trying to go one better than him next week.

“My partner got a silver medal in Manchester so there’s going to be, not rivalry, but a bit of competition to see if I can get one up on him,” laughed Pitman, who will be part of a 14-strong English judo team in Glasgow.

“But he will be very supportive as I’ve never competed at an event the scale of the Commonwealth Games before.”

Pitman helps Cousins, who also acts as her coach, run classes out of the West Essex Judo Club.

She is also a qualified sports massage therapist and personal trainer.

For now, though, all her thoughts are on attempting to win gold in Glasgow.

Pitman, who became a First Dan at the age of 16, has known since May that she would be competing for England at the 20th edition of the Commonwealth Games.

But it was only when she was decked out in team kit late last month that the excitement really started to kick in.

Pitman, now a Third Dan who has competed at the top level of judo for close to a decade, added: “It kind of all sunk it when the kit arrived.

“We got our tracksuits, our bags, and all of sudden I started getting a bit nervous. But I’m really excited now.

“It was honour to be selected and it will be an honour to fight for England because I am very patriotic.

“I’m really excited about it and hopefully I will do my country, my judo club and my hometown proud.”

Pitman will have plenty of support back in Todmorden, the place she has long since left but still holds dear.

“I’ve been away so long now that I feel I could fit in anywhere,” she said. I really miss it though. The pace of things, the accent, how everyone is chilled out – and I especially miss the hills.

“I love where I am now but I’ll always love Todmorden.”

Pitman will be joined in the England squad by London 2012 silver-medal winner Gemma Gibbons.

And Team England chef de mission Jan Paterson said: “I am delighted to welcome such a talented squad to Team England.

“It is very unusual to have an entire squad of debutants but this is the first time judo has been in the Games since Manchester 2002.

“We have a number of Olympians in the squad and English judo has an incredible record at the Commonwealth Games topping the medal table every time they’ve performed.

“We’ll be up against some tough competition in Glasgow but we will see some high quality performances from this squad.”