Judo: Sally Conway aims to star in Astana

Sally Conway

Sally Conway

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Designed by a Japanese architect, it seems the Kazakhstan city of Astana was always destined to host the World Judo Championships.

On her first visit to the city, Sally Conway is out to end the interest of the sport’s founding country in the Under-70kg tomorrow and lay the foundations for a medal bid.

The Edinburgh judoka has been drawn against Chizuru Aria, the only Japanese in the weight category and who has already won grand slam titles in Tokyo and Dusseldorf.

It is a difficult draw but no less than the world No.6 expected.

With the Olympics less than a year away, all of the top judokas are in Kazakhstan with German world No.3 Laura Vargas-Koch also in her initial pool.

The world’s top-ranked player, Kim Polling, from the Netherlands, is favourite but defending champion Yuri Alvear, from Colombia, is also in a draw which includes all of the players ranked above Conway.

But her world ranking at least ensured she avoided the big guns in her opening contest.

“I’m in a good starting position and won’t face the No.1 or two seed in my first match,” the 28-year-old Commonwealth bronze medallist stated.

“It’s a chance to get the first fight over and done with and get into the competition before I face one of the higher-ranked players.

“Everybody is hungry for a podium finish so they can be in a comfortable position for Olympic qualifying. As long as I put in my best performance, that will give me a chance of being on that rostrum.”

Conway feels she is almost back to 100 per cent after sustaining a hamstring injury on her way to winning the Baku Grand Slam in Azerbaijan in May. She beat Polling in the 
final to take gold.

“I had a good spell but I also had a couple of disappointments at the Masters and the European Championships,” she continued.

“I didn’t feel I was able to fight to the best of my ability because of my injury so I chose to miss the Russian Grand Slam. I now need to keep on putting in the performances. and placing and medalling in the events I do to make it to Rio.”