Having missed out in London 2012 and five years ago in Rio, the 34-year-old heavyweight has been confirmed among a six-strong British team for Tokyo.
The Edinburgh-based fighter, who struck gold for Scotland at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, snuck in at the eleventh hour through the world rankings where she sits 33rd despite her first round exit in last month’s world championships in Budapest.
She said: “It’s been a long time coming, lots of ups and downs along the way. To be a part of the GB team feels amazing. I was always confident in my ability. But I’ve missed out before. I missed out by one place on qualification for Rio. So there is always that anxiousness.
“You don’t want that history to repeat itself. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. We’ve done five years since then and I’m a lot better athlete than I was then.”
Adlington, the eldest on the squad, will bid to follow in the footsteps of long-time club-mate Sally Conway who pulled out a stunning run to bronze at Rio 2016. In probably her single shot at Olympic glory, the veteran believes she can peak at the perfect moment.
She said: “If I perform to the best of my ability, I can be on that podium. That’s the dream and if I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t be here.”The Budokan Hall, which staged the sport's debut in 1964, will play host to an experienced GB line-up looking to secure a place on the podium for the third Olympic Games in succession.
British athletes have claimed a total of 19 Olympic judo medals, including bronze for Sally Conway in Rio, but are still chasing that elusive first gold.
British Judo performance director Nigel Donohue said: "It is a fantastic achievement to qualify and gain selection for what will be an historical and iconic Olympic Games for judo.
"As we head into Tokyo, we have a team who have a track record of medalling at key events. It gives extreme confidence in knowing that we have a group of fighters who can compete and perform against the best in the world at this level."