Judoka Sally Conway eyes a major medal push in coming years

Sally Conway
Sally Conway's career highlight came in Rio when she secured an Olympic bronze medal

Within weeks of her career highlight at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Scottish judoka Sally Conway faced a decision that would dictate her future in the sport.

She returned to her base in Edinburgh with an Olympic bronze medal in her baggage, but knew that to continue at the top level she would have to relocate and join the rest of Team GB's judo stars at the main training centre in Walsall.

As with the rest of Team GB's judoka, failure to relocate would result in a funding cut which would effectively end Conway's aspirations to compete on the international stage.

"We knew exactly what it was," the 30-year-old said. "We knew that if we didn't go to Walsall, we wouldn't get our funding, we wouldn't get our trips, we wouldn't be supported by British Judo - every tournament we would have to self fund.

"It kind of was an ultimatum, but it was my choice as well.

"I'd been in Edinburgh for 12 years, so Edinburgh is my home. I'm part of Judo Scotland and I have a lot of friends up here, my coaches are up here, so it was a very very hard decision to move down to Walsall, but I felt like I had to give it a go.

Sally Conway
Sally Conway hopes to go two steps higher on the podium if she goes to Tokyo 2020

"It was like I didn't want to come to the end of my judo career and never know."

It was a tough decision for Conway, but she is enjoying the benefits of training alongside the rest of Team GB's elite judoka.

The move should give Conway the best possible opportunity to add to that -70kg Olympic bronze and the Commonwealth Games bronze she won in Glasgow in 2014.

And taking to the mat in a more relaxed state of mind should also help.

"When I come back competing now, I feel like a massive relief like the pressure has been lifted from my shoulders because I've achieved what I've wanted to achieve," Conway added.

"Obviously I would like to go on to Tokyo [2020 Olympics] and win the gold but it's a relief that I've got a major championship medal now because up until the Olympics I hadn't got a European or a World medal or an Olympic medal.

'I believe I can achieve a medal here'

"There was a pressure there, but now I have that medal it's kind of me going out there and enjoying what I do, and it seems the last couple of competitions it's worked for me."

Taking that pressure-free mentality into the next Olympic Games could be significant for Conway.

She is hoping to be there in 2020, and with the Games being held in Japan, the Scot says bowing out in the birthplace of judo is a hugely appealing prospect.

"To have my last Olympics Games in Tokyo would be amazing, it would be unbelievable," Conway said. "My dad says he always wanted to save his pennies for 2020 so even if I'm not competing we're going to watch anyway.

"I'm just trying to take it year by year and focus on the here and now. Two years before the Olympics, if I feel fit and I'm still performing, and still getting results, then I'll be going for 2020."

First up, however, are the World Championships in August.

"This year it's all about getting back into competition again [following a lay-off] and a result at the World Championships would be fantastic," Conway added. "I believe I can achieve a medal there.

"Next year I'll be competing more and I'd like to get European medals and world medals over the next two years. It'll be important to be getting good results in the two years out from the Games to qualify.

"Another Olympic medal would be amazing, but to win gold in Tokyo and have it as my last Olympics - that would be a dream."

Sally Conway
"This year it's all about getting back into competition again..."

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