Sally Conway hardly gave a second thought about who she wanted to compete for at Glasgow 2014.
Even if she has not quite yet mastered the Scottish accent, the Bristol-raised judoka did not hesitate to sign up for Team Scotland and even took part in the official team photoshoot at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.
Conway, 26, considers Edinburgh her home and is not the only English-born athlete who is keen to make Scotland’s judo team.
Whereas it is the norm for top Scottish sports stars like Chris Hoy or Andy Murray to head south or even overseas to hone their talents, Judo Scotland has reversed the trend. Their top-class training facility boasts European and World medallists as Olympic silver medallist Gemma Gibbons also gave a ringing endorsement to the centre by moving north after London 2012.
Conway believes the set-up is second to none and is convinced she would be considered a turncoat if she decided to compete for England next year.
“I’ve been living in Scotland for eight or nine years and all my coaches are Scottish and I get all my support from Judo Scotland and the Scottish Institute of Sport. They have supported me for a long time and I feel part of the Scottish team and my home is in Edinburgh,” she underlines.
“Even through injuries, they have supported me to get back on the mat as quickly as possible. If it wasn’t for all that support, I might not even be back from my injuries now and it would have taken a lot longer. They have helped a lot with physio, massage, nutrition and strength and conditioning and it just feels right to compete for Scotland.
“To compete for Scotland would be an amazing experience and it would be an honour to take part in Glasgow for what will be a home Games for us.
“There was no pressure from England. They knew that we’d be competing for Scotland as we’d been up here for so long.
“If I was competing for England, it would be as if I was against my coaches and people I train with day-in, day-out and it would just be a weird situation to be in.
“I don’t think I’d like it very much and I don’t think my coaches would particularly like it very much as they’d be coaching against me. It just makes sense to fight for Scotland and it’s definitely my choice and I think it’s going to be the right choice. My family support me in whatever I do and they think it’s great that I’m fighting for Scotland as they know how much support Judo Scotland have given to me. They know how much I believe Scotland is my home and it’s like another family for me.”
Conway’s decision to move to Edinburgh initially had less to do with the facilities on offer and more to do with quality of coaching and training partners.
“When I first moved up to Scotland and worked under Billy Cusack, we were just in a building above a car park – it was basically a hall with a few mats, but I knew at the time that this was the best place to be and I’ve never regretted my move since,” she explained.
“It was not so much a case of the facilities but of the standard of coaching and the quality of training partners. The likes of Euan Burton and Sarah Clark were doing so well and it seemed like a successful set-up.
“I knew that if I wanted to better myself and be the best that I could be then I needed to be where the best players and coaches were and, at the time, it was definitely in Scotland. Still, to this day, I’m happy with the way things are going and I’m feeling good for the future.
“It’s just developed and grew bigger and better and I’m really happy with how it’s worked out.
“We’re a close-knit group. Everyone has each other’s back and everyone wants to see you doing well. As much as it is an individual sport and you are by yourself on that mat, it doesn’t feel like it. They want it as much as you do and it feels good to be part of that.”
Conway, fifth in the World Championships in 2009 and a medallist at the London Olympic Games Test Event, suffered a second round exit at London 2012 when she had the potential to win a medal in the Under-70kg event.
“There were a lot of mixed emotions,” she recalls, “I was so happy to be there and I was overwhelmed. I did believe I could pick up a medal at the Olympics so when I didn’t I was really disappointed and a bit deflated afterwards.
“Shortly after that I had a shoulder operation and it gave me time to reflect on everything and build myself back up to get myself on track for Glasgow 2014.”