By Amanda MacMillan
THE father of the former Scots Judo Champion who died suddenly while serving in the Army in England has said he “couldn’t have asked for a better daughter.”
Ian Hart, 60, paid tribute to his daughter Corporal Stephanie Hart who died aged 29.
Miss Hart, originally from Sighthill in Edinburgh, won a bronze for Scotland at the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002 before signing up for the Army shortly before the outbreak of the war in Iraq.
She was serving in Aldershot, Hampshire with the 10th Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistics Regiment when she passed away on August 28.
Her death took place off barracks.
Mr Hart, who lives in Broxburn, West Lothian, said: “I couldn’t have asked for a better daughter. She wasn’t only a friend to me but a friend to many.
“She was a fantastic daughter. She liked school even though she didn’t particularly excel.
“She was excellent at college, where she did sports science, and had ambitions to go to university but she just put it on hold to train in judo for the Commonwealth Games.
“She was told that you only get one shot at it, whereas you can study at any time, so she went for it.”
The sportswoman joined her local judo club aged just eight and won her first senior title at 15.
She also represented Scotland three times at the Commonwealth Games and after joining army she led Combined Services Ladies Team to the national team medal in 2002.
Mr Hart added: “We were delighted when she got her lottery funding and I supported her every step of the way, but despite the funding I had to put a lot more money into the training than I ever had.
“In the end she decided to join the army to prove to everyone that she was able to stand on her own two feet and make a living.
“Stephanie was outstanding, as a sportswoman, as a soldier, a daughter, a sister, auntie and cousin. Everybody loved her.
“We loved her and the army loved her. She put into her 29 years ten times what most people put into their whole life.
“I couldn’t be more proud of her.”
Mr Hart declined to comment on the circumstances of her death.
An army spokeswoman said: “A full inquest was also carried out and returned no outstanding questions. As far as the army is concerned the matter is now closed.”
A statement from the British Judo Association praised Miss Hart. It said: “Steph was the ultimate professional as well as a talented sportswoman, a true ambassador and a spokeswoman for all.
“Steph will be sadly missed by her judo friends, who remember her as an effervescent player who always had time for everyone.”
Miss Hart served in Iraq as part of the first British non-special forces unit across the border from Kuwait at the start of the war.
She later transferred to the Royal Logisitcs Corps and came back from a tour of duty to Afghanistan in March.
A full military funeral will be held for her tomorrow (wed) at Mortonhall Crematorium Main Chapel in Edinburgh.