Judokas put everything on the line for Glasgow

Patrick Dawson will make his Games debut. World No.5 Sally Conway, below, has a medal chance
Patrick Dawson will make his Games debut. World No.5 Sally Conway, below, has a medal chance
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Scotland’s Commonwealth Games judo team cannot wait to get to grips with their opponents in Glasgow this summer as the sport returns after an absence of 12 years.

An experienced squad of 14 judoka featuring 12 from the Lothians are part of the latest members of Team Scotland announced along with artistic gymnastics, weightlifting and powerlifting, taking the total team so far to 178, with the full team expected to grow to 270.

Five Edinburgh-based Olympians have been included – Euan Burton, Chris Sherrington, James Austin, Sarah Clark and world No.5 Sally Conway – as judo returns to the Games for the first time since Manchester 2002.

Scotland won ten medals in the sport in Manchester, including a gold for Graeme Randall and a silver for Clark, who wants another medal in her international swansong.

Broxburn’s John Buchanan, who also competed in Manchester but had the misfortune to draw eventual winner Craig Fallon in the first round of the Under-60kg event, is back at a major Games for the first time since then.

One of only three Scottish men to have won a World Championship medal – bronze in Munich in 2001 – he is mainly concerned with coaching these days. But the lure of one last fling at Glasgow was too great to resist.

Buchanan, 38, returned to international competition this season and showed he still has what it takes when he won a bronze medal in a European Cup in Sweden.

“We are putting a lot on the line and know that if we lose in some events, people will say that we are not the fighter we used to be,” he admits.

“But this is too good an opportunity to miss. It would be fantastic to finally hang up my competitive gear, having won a medal in Glasgow.

“I had the London Olympics at the back of my mind at one point but there is a huge commitment involved and I have three children to consider now.

“But having a Commonwealth Games in your home country is something special and it was always nagging at me.”

Portobello’s Patrick Dawson will make his Games debut in the Under-73kg event, just eight years after taking up the sport.

Dawson only started judo at the age of 17 when he was a pupil at Edinburgh’s George Watson’s College.

But he has exploded onto the international circuit and last year beat the Olympic champion Mansur Isaev in South America and he all but rubber-stamped his Commonwealth selection by winning the European Open in Sofia in February.

“Some people may see it as a disadvantage but I see it as a positive thing,” he says. “If you’ve been doing judo since the age of five, sometimes you can become a bit disillusioned if things are not going your way.

“I found something at 17 that I really connected with and fell in love with and, at that age, you’re much more able to engage with it and learn it at a quicker rate, obviously, than when you were five.

“Judo is the sort of sport where you never finish learning. If you think you’ve finishing learning, then you’re fooling yourself. No one that does judo is complete – maybe with the exception of a couple of people in the world – and I find I’m always learning.

“The Commonwealth Games is an opportunity to fight for Scotland which you don’t often get and it would be lovely to be on the rostrum at the end of the competition.”

Livingston gymnast Adam Cox, another who competed in Manchester 12 years ago, is also back in Team Scotland.

A bronze medallist at the Games in Melbourne in 2006, he was tipped for a medal in New Delhi four years ago. But the sudden dismissal of the national coach Tan Jia En, just two days before the team was meant to fly out, led to Cox pulling out.

Now he wants to end his international gymnastics career on a high note in Glasgow.