FORMER European judo champion Sarah Clark is tipping Edinburgh Club colleague Sally Conway to follow in her footsteps when the latest instalment of the event gets underway in Budapest tomorrow.
Conway joins three other Edinburgh Club judokas – Graham Trinder, Connie Ramsay and Patrick Dawson – on the mat and double Olympian Sarah is optimistic the quartet will at least put down a strong marker for Scottish judo ahead of next year’s Commonwealth Games.
“The Commonwealth Games qualification does not actually start until immediately after the Europeans but I see a real opportunity for all four to let people know they are out there competing well,” said Clark.
“A clutch of medals are not out of the question, but realistically, I see Sally having the best chance.
“In her first competition since shoulder surgery after the Olympics, she returned from the IJF Samsun Grand Prix in Turkey with a gold medal from the -70kg category.
“I suspect Sally would be really disappointed not to get on that rostrum and I’m sure coach Billy Cusack (her coach, also from Edinburgh) feels the same about her prospects.
Cusack says: “Sally is in fantastic and it is a huge honour for the Edinburgh Club to have four representatives at the start of a new Olympic cycle. From Burton, Randall, Somerville and Clark moving towards Rio success seems to breed success.”
“Like me, Sally is a Champions in Schools role model which is organised through the Winning Scotland Foundation to deliver separate lessons on goal setting, healthy lifestyle/choices and winning attitudes and is immersed in the sport.”.
While Trinder hails from Reading, Conway has moved north from Bristol and Ramsay has Invernessian roots. Dawson is a Leither who came to the sport relatively late at the age of 16.
He is making up for lost time and Sarah explained: “Patrick had a big result recently, at the Buenos Aires Open, when he defeated reigning Olympic champion Mansur Isaev of Russia on his way to the gold.
“Patrick is still finding his feet at this level, but what is exciting is the fact he is at the start of a journey that can lead via the Commonwealth Games to the Rio Olympics.
“As for Connie, she has been at this level for a couple of years after going to the Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010 as part of the ambition programme. Soon we should start to see real progress from someone who supplements her income by coaching youngsters.
“In the case of Graham Trinder he has to balance his judo with work as a plasterer. It’s a real credit to Graham the way he has managed his work and his judo to be part of a maximum 18-strong Great Britain team that is split equally between men and women this week.
“Like Patrick, this will be his first ‘Europeans’ and currently he ranks No. 2 in his division behind Ashley McKenzie, who has featured on television’s Big Brother programme but he is catching up.
“Graham is a great spoiler on the mat and very difficult to beat.
“What is really pleasing is that regardless of how our quartet perform, they will soon be back at the Edinburgh Club mixing with, and encouraging, the kids while being part of a new generation coming through at top level.”