Judo: Euan Burton talks up Scotland’s chances

Edinburgh's Euan Burton has competed in two Olympic Games.  Picture: Lars Baron/Getty Images
Edinburgh's Euan Burton has competed in two Olympic Games. Picture: Lars Baron/Getty Images
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Euan BURTON is not surprised that a handful of English-born judoka are aiming to compete for Team Scotland at Glasgow 2014.

As Edinburgh’s world and European medallist prepares for this weekend’s men’s 
European Open at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena, he does so with an eye on next year’s Commonwealth Games.

Scotland’s team will be bolstered by the fact that James Austin, Matthew Purssey, Chris Sherrington, Sally Conway and Sarah Adlington – who all grew up in England – are part of the full-time set-up at Ratho.

Now concentrating on coaching, he is also looking at competing for Scotland at Under-100kg level – stepping up two weight divisions – at the Games and will compete in that division this weekend.

“It’s each athlete’s decision, if they qualify for more than one country,” stressed Burton.

“It’s testament to the fact that we have a group of athletes who feel they want to give something back to judo in Scotland, regardless of whether they were born here or not.

“Athletes will move their home, their whole life to somewhere if they feel it gives them a better chance of being successful. That’s how important it is and how passionate they are about their sport.”

Burton was born south of the border himself, but has spent 33 of his 34 years in Scotland and it was never in any doubt who he would compete for in Glasgow.

It is testament to the set-up at Ratho that so many top-class judoka are based north of the border and Burton believes there is no magic formula to producing world-class talent.

“Cultures make set-ups and athletes make that culture,” he continues. “Athletes will go and hunt out the places that will give them the best chance of success.

“There’s not a magic formula – it’s hard work, being clear in your goals and where you are trying to get to and what you need to improve on. You need to come in every day and work hard on improving those things and we have a robust group of players, coaches and staff here.”

Burton was hurt during London 2012 when Densign White, the then chairman of British Judo, questioned the commitment of some of the squad after early results – including an early exit for Burton – were disappointing.

But Gemma Gibbons [Burton’s then girlfriend and now wife] then produced one of the highlights of the Games by winning an unexpected silver medal.

“I was enormously upset,” Burton recalled. “I don’t know if he said it on the day I competed or the day after.

“Understandably, people who are in positions of power are going to be put in difficult positions when a team isn’t performing to the level the public expect them. It was disappointing because I knew how hard I had worked and knew how hard all of that team had worked.

“What seemed to come out of his quote was that he was questioning the work ethic of the team. You can question results – because results over that first three or four days weren’t particularly good – but, as an athlete, I was disgusted he was questioning our work ethic.

“I put my heart and soul of 20-odd years into becoming Olympic champion and for someone to question my commitment, I felt was just disgusting.

“His comments came across as if he was standing watching us training a lot of the time. I hadn’t seen him on a judo mat in ten years.

“What Gemma did was fantastic, just for the fact she fought an absolutely phenomenal day. She fought world-class fighters all the way through and ended up with an Olympic medal.

“I think he made his comments because he thought our biggest chances were gone and for Gemma to get that medal was great.

“I think he also questioned that some athletes focused on their education more than their judo, but she had been working towards a degree and was one of those athletes combining education with judo. It was a nice way of proving him wrong.

“What Gemma did saved my Games. I have happy memories of the Olympics because of what she did.”