Sally Conway will breathe in every moment of this month’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow – intent on taking in what is sure to be an incredible atmosphere.
The Edinburgh judoka concedes she did not make the most of her Olympic debut in London 2012 – and missed out on the chance to fight for a medal.
The middleweight, who medalled at the London Test event, beat Chad’s Carine Ngarlemdana in her opening fight but then lost to Edith Bosch from the Netherlands, missing out on the repechage stages.
Conway is likely to go into the Under-70kg event in Glasgow as favourite for gold having risen to world No.5 and insists she has learned from the Olympics.
“I know there’s a lot of pressure from people, but I put a lot of pressure on myself as well,” the 27-year-old stressed.
“For London, I put too much pressure on myself and forgot to enjoy it. The atmosphere was amazing, but I just let the pressure get to me so much that I didn’t appreciate it.
“I didn’t relax as much as I should have and, if I’d done that, I think I’d have performed a lot better.
“I’m going to take that lesson to the Commonwealth Games. I’m still going to be nervous – as you’re always going to be that – but I’ll just be trying to soak up the crowd a bit, because it’s going to be special.”
Conway is currently ranked second in the Commonwealth in her weight category behind Canadian Kelita Zupancic but there is doubt over whether Zupancic will be competing in Glasgow.
The next Olympic cycle has just begun for Rio 2016 and the Canadians may decide their top players will compete elsewhere.
Conway also has her eyes on Olympic gold in Rio and has travelled extensively in recent months to get her ranking into the top eight which guarantees seeding at top international events.
The Bristol-born athlete is just back from a 10-day Olympic training camp in Minsk and, as she begins the final countdown to Glasgow, also has a grand slam event in Russia to go to later this month, her final competition.
At the Edinburgh club she has been putting youngsters from Glasgow’s Active East project – the only Scottish organisation competing to win the Best Sports Project at this year’s National Lottery Awards – through their paces.
Conway was more than happy to provide a helping hand as she acknowledges the support she has received from the lottery has kept her at the top of her sport.
“I’ll be fighting the Commonwealths and hoping to do really well there and straight after that it’s preparation for the World Championships at the end of August, so it’s really full-on,” she continued.
“But I like it that way and I wouldn’t want it any other way. There are so many tournaments now for qualifying for the Olympics, World Championships and European Championships.
“If it wasn’t for the National Lottery, I wouldn’t be able to go to the majority of these events. It gives me the chance to compete at the highest level and I’m very grateful for what they do for our sport.
“I’m not saying it wouldn’t be possible, but it would be very difficult to achieve what I want to achieve – which is competing at the Commonwealth Games and World and European Championships and Olympics and winning major titles – without their support.
“I’ve been all over the world in recent months. I’ve been very lucky. But even for the training, not only in Great Britain but abroad. You need to be able to have experience training with the people you are going to be competing against in tournaments, so the funding has also let me go to Japan, Brazil and all over Europe.
“I’m also hoping to go to Brazil at the end of the year and see what training facilities are going to be like to give us a head start for 2016.”
But for now the focus is on the Commonwealth Games: “There’s a real buzz about training in Ratho just now and everyone’s looking forward to it.
“We’re coming into the final preparations now, so everyone’s getting behind each other and getting excited for each other.
“We have the kitting out day in a couple of weeks – that is another big part of it. Then, it’s into the holding camp and the final push towards competition.”
n The National Lottery funds 1,300 elite athletes across the UK, many of whom will be representing their home nation at Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. To find out more visit www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk