Gibbons won an iconic silver in the -78kg category, marking her semi-final win by mouthing ‘thank you mum’ in honour of her mother who died of leukaemia.
But she may never have reached the podium had she understood the severity of a thumb injury sustained in the early rounds.
- Watch Return to London 2012 on Eurosport 2 and Eurosport Player from May 24-31
"I managed to get through that fight, and I came off and went crying to my doctor and physio," she told Orla Chennaoui on Eurosport’s Return to London 2012 week.
"They went away for a chat, came back and said there nothing wrong with it, gave me a bit of tape, and stuck me back on the mat for my next fight.
"At the end of the day I was getting ready to leave and they came up to me and said I had to go for an X-ray the next day. I was like ‘there’s no way I’m wasting my Olympic experience going to a hospital for an X-ray – you said there’s nothing wrong with it’ but they kind of gave me the look to say you need to go.
Gemma Gibbons, Judo (Reuters)
Image credit: Reuters
"So I did, and I’d shattered it into four different pieces. I went back to the Olympic village afterwards and said 'Hey, what the hell?'
"Actually they said as soon as they looked at it [they knew] it was broken but if they told me that I would have been worrying about it… but if they told me it wasn’t [broken] I’d have been silly enough to believe them and just got on with the day, as I did."
‘I didn’t even realise I was doing it’ – Gemma Gibbons on her emotional Olympic tribute
Gibbons was joined by double Olympic taekwondo champion Jade Jones as part of Eurosport’s eight-episode series telling the incredible tales of Team GB’s stars through the eyes of the athletes themselves.
Jones is seeking to become the first British woman to win three consecutive Olympic titles in Tokyo, a journey that began in London when she was a reserved teenager.
"Any time I feel a bit demotivated or a bit down I do watch the Olympics," said Jones.
"I think what surprises me is how shy I was back then. I remember walking out in the medal ceremony and it was a French girl who told me to wave.
"She said ‘wave, they’re your people!’ I was walking out quite shy and then started to wave. And then I was belting out the national anthem as well."
#Returnto2012 - Jade Jones wins brilliant taekwondo gold in London
Watch Gibbons, Jones and boxer Anthony Ogogo in the full episode on Friday May 29 at 2pm (repeated at 7pm) and catch the eight-episode series featuring British sporting royalty including Sir Bradley Wiggins, Sir Chris Hoy, Sir Mo Farah and Rebecca Adlington throughout the week on Eurosport 2 and Eurosport Player