Judo World Championships: Sally Conway eyes Rio pointers

By Jane LewisBBC Scotland
Sally Conway with her Commonwealth Games bronze medal
Conway won bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow

The Judo World Championships are under way in Astana and, for Scotland's Sally Conway, it marks the start of a journey that she hopes will end in Brazil - Rio to be exact - next summer.

Conway, who is the only Scot in the British team in Kazakhstan, told BBC Scotland before heading out: ''At the World Championships, there are massive amount of points on offer, so if you get a result or if you get a medal, it puts you in a really strong position for qualifying for Rio next year.''

The 28-year-old has been based at the Judo Academy in Ratho, Edinburgh, for 10 years having moved from her base at Bisham Abbey.

The base has gained an impressive reputation for training and developing judo talent with the likes of Olympic silver medallist Gemma Gibbons, who is also in the GB team for the Worlds, also based there.

''The group of boys and girls we have here at Ratho is brilliant," said Conway. "We get to train with them day in day out and I think, with the younger ones coming through as well, they can see how the older ones are training and behaving.

"It was the same for me when I was coming through. I had the likes of Euan Burton and Sarah Clarke to look up to and say 'that's where I'd like to be one day'.''

Conway won a bronze medal in the -70kg weight category at last summer's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and feels she has developed and grown as a competitor since those Games.

Sunibala Huidrom grapples with Sally Conway at Glasgow 2014
Conway (right) beat Sunibala Huidrom of India to win Commonwealth Games bronze in Glasgow

She also competed at the European Games in Baku, but this week's World Championships are crucial with the Rio Olympics in mind.

''I've tried to work on my performance and put in good ones every time I compete," said Conway.

"So, going into the World Champs, I'm just hoping to put in a good performance, believe in myself and go out there as confident as possible and then anything can happen on the day.

"I'm really looking forward to getting out there and showing what I can do.''

However, Conway knows the competition in her weight category will be tough.

''At this level now, everyone wants to get to the Olympic Games, so the competition is going to be really, really high," she said.

"I can't really pinpoint anyone that's going to be outstanding, but the Dutch girl, Kim Polling, she's the number one seed at the moment and I think she's won nearly every tournament this year that she's fought in, so she's obviously going to be a hard opponent to come across.''

Kim Polling (right) on her way to defeating Germany's Laura Vargas Koch in the European Championships
Kim Polling (right) defeated Germany's Laura Vargas Koch to win European Championships gold

Conway is hoping to learn from the experiences she gained at London 2012, especially with regards the pressures that come with competing at such a high level.

''London for me was an amazing experience," she said of the Olympics. "I went believing I could have medalled, but I felt I got too nervous.

"The pressure got too much for me because I'd never fought in a stadium like that before, especially when all the support was cheering for me.''

With London 2012 and Glasgow 2014 now behind her, she insists lessons have been learned.

"The whole experience was all so new to me, so I'll just take that into Rio and hopefully be able to perform better as a result," said Conway.

While there was no medal in London, she is desperate to rectify that in Rio - with gold her aim.

"I always want to put in the best performance possible so, win or lose, I can come away from the day and be happy with what I did," she added.

"But then obviously my main goal is to medal at an Olympics Games and to get the gold medal would be absolutely amazing.''

Conway competes in the -70kg category at the World Championships on Friday.