Edinburgh judo champion in plea to save popular Meadowbank club

A Commonwealth gold medalist is appealing for help to find a new home for a popular judo club inspiring future Olympic champions.

Tuesday, 13th November 2018, 2:05 pm
Updated Tuesday, 13th November 2018, 2:09 pm
Edinburgh Judo Club

Commonwealth Gold Medalist, Sarah Clarke and Team Scotland Head Coach, Billy Cusack in their Edinburgh Dojo. Picture: Neil Hanna
Edinburgh Judo Club Commonwealth Gold Medalist, Sarah Clarke and Team Scotland Head Coach, Billy Cusack in their Edinburgh Dojo. Picture: Neil Hanna

Edinburgh Judo must leave their existing base at St Margaret’s House in Meadowbank by September next year after the building was sold for £15 million.

It is a “massive blow” for the judo club, which boasts more than 300 members, with organisers now desperate to find a suitable location as soon as possible to secure its future.

Edinburgh Judo has a number of Olympic hopefuls on its books including Sally Conway, who won a bronze medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics, while Sarah Adlington finished fifth at the 2018 World Championships in Baku.

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Both are vying for Team GB spots ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Sarah Clark, who won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow 2014, is the programme director at the club and is eager to see the club continue to progress.

She told the Evening News: “We are a competition club now with members performing in top end contests. Two of our members are in the qualification period ahead of Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

“They are hoping for a place at the Olympics which is a two-year process and they’re five months into that now. They are both in the top 15 in the world so we’re hopeful they will make it. It is also great to see the kids watching these athletes and being able to integrate and learn from them. Edinburgh Judo is a culture and a community which we have built over time.”

Drum Property Group has plans which will see the former government records office converted into a hotel, student accommodation and affordable housing as well as local community facilities. Current occupants of the building also include a 200 workshops for artists, craftsmen and painters, a radio station, a theatre and a disability charity, all of whom have been forced to look for new premises when Edinburgh Palette leaves the office block next year.

Ms Clark, who was born in South Shields in the north-east of England, previously won silver at the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002.

She retired from competing internationally on a high following her Glasgow success, but judo remains a huge part of her life.

After being involved with the club since 2004, she has seen it evolve into a family with members of all ages participating in the sport. She said: “We’ve built something special here. Members look forward to attending in a safe environment.

“I like to play my part in making it a community where the whole family can spend time together. That’s how kids and families become more active.

“As I’ve got older, I’ve realised that it’s not all about performance; it’s about kids becoming more healthy and active. Not all members want to reach Olympic standard and just participate for fun which is absolutely fine.

“We also have Olympic standard coaches for those who do want to get to the top and be the best they can be.”

Sarah is hopeful they can find an alternative venue as soon as possible and is appealing to the public for help in identifying possible locations.

She said: “We need somewhere with a 15x15 area for a mat and then further space for gym equipment.

“If we do have to go somewhere short term then it wouldn’t be ideal but at least we’d have a base. We want to be proactive in finding somewhere so we remain accessible to everyone. We are part of the community. Around 60 per cent of our members come along more than once a week. If you take that away then people will be devastated.”

Anyone who can help should contact [email protected]