by Steph Inglis

JULY 31, 2014.

A milestone in my life, the pinnacle of my judo career, the day I represented Team Scotland at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

It was a special moment to swap the GB flag for the Scottish saltire, something I have only had the pleasure of doing a few times. And, with the Glaswegian and Scottish crowd behind me, I knew it was going to be special.

Not only was I JudoScotland’s first female judoka to fight that day, I was also Team Scotland’s first athlete to win a silver medal for those Games, an achievement I can be proud of for the rest of my days. And, on top of that, I can say I was part of a record-breaking team.

With six gold, two silver and five bronze medals across our judo team of 14, we became Scotland’s most successful sport at a Commonwealth Games.

Judo was taken out of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games so, with its return at this year’s Birmingham 2022 Games, the excitement is building!

Can this Games team duplicate such high success or has the bar been set too high?

The selection process for the 2014 team was a gruelling battle. We travelled all over the world competing for qualification points at European and World opens. There were approximately 20 of us trying to bag one of the 14 spots.

Between the whole squad, we won numerous international senior medals and enjoyed multiple wins across the board, making the qualification one of the toughest and most stressful moments in my life.

I was surprised to see the qualification process for the Birmingham 2022 Games significantly lower, however, with a much younger and inexperienced team, it matched the level of where they currently are in their own judo careers.

JudoScotland have selected a young team who have not yet had the same experience on the world stage, so competing at such a high level in Birmingham will give them the opportunity to see what it means to be a world-class athlete, and the hard work involved in making a successful judo career for themselves.

With this, it seems that the success of this Games judo team may not match Glasgow, but it will build the foundation to prepare them for progressing onto the world stage.

We see the return of gold-medallists of Glasgow 2014 in the male and female open weights – Christopher Sherrington and Sarah Adlington – and our hopes are high that they will both manage to repeat these performances.

Commonwealth champion Kimberley Renicks will also be taking to the mat with the goal of retaining her title but at the weight category above; -52kg, which is the title she wants to keep in the family as her sister, Louise Renicks, took the top spot in Glasgow 2014.

Although these Games are in England, I still class it as another ‘home’ Games, and the Scottish athletes will have a great Scottish support present with many judo clubs, families, friends and Scottish judo fans making the trip to Birmingham to get behind our team!

Unfortunately, I will not make it there in person as I get married the same week but I shall be following along with all the action online and on TV. That is assuming we will have TV coverage.

As judo is a minority sport, we tend not to have the same coverage as other sports, however, I am hoping (as I am sure many others are) that with the success of the team in Glasgow, we might have bagged some TV coverage.

I am also looking forward to watching and catching up with Team Scotland’s athletes across all sports. There is something special about a multi-sport event.

Judo was on the first three days in Glasgow, which meant we could enjoy the rest of the Games happily as we no longer had to keep focused for the competition and we had all done extremely well. We were given free passes to any of the other sports, which we took advantage of to go and cheer Team Scotland.

I enjoyed watching boxing, rugby sevens,weightlifting and gymnastics – sports I have no idea how to win, or about the rules, but that doesn’t matter at a multi-sport event. What matters is you are cheering regardless of what is happening and supporting passionately your Team Scotland team-mates!

With JudoScotland’s young team attending Birmingham, they will enjoy all the benefits of a multi-sport atmosphere, meet athletes from multiple sports, find out what training they do, their athlete journeys and so on. I am still in touch with many athletes that I met during my time in Glasgow and will have my memories forever.

The athletes' village was something else! We were all given houses as accommodation; my judo team shared our house with the gymnastics team – a great bunch of athletes!

There were three food halls where you could go in and help yourself, everything free! We enjoyed booking in for free massages, nail and hair salons, saunas, weight rooms, games rooms. Then, on top of that, we were meeting other Team Scotland athletes and getting to know each other and athletes from all around the Commonwealth.

For those two weeks, Glasgow had a surprisingly hot, sunny spell, which caught some of the warmer Commonwealth countries by surprise. With some countries including hat, gloves and scarves in their team kits, they had not banked on the fact Glasgow could be sunny and warm and quickly ditched those items and popped over to Tesco to buy paddling pools to cool down in. Only in Scotland!

I had hoped that Birmingham 2022 would be my final competition before I announced retirement at the age of 33. I wanted to go out with a bang and get the Commonwealth title under my belt. Sadly, due to my accident in 2016, this was never going to happen.

But an athlete’s journey always comes to an end for varying reasons; I just wish I had been the one in control of this outcome but, que sera, we can only support and put our hopes in our future athletes to mirror or excel on our performances for the future of JudoScotland.

My chance of competing in Birmingham 2022 was taken away from me and I hope our judo team do not take their spots for granted, and go out there with the confidence that they are prepared and fully ready for this competition, as they are not competing for themselves but for all of Scotland’s judoka.

I wish them every success and hope they all get the results they deserve! People make Glasgow ... people make the Games! Go Scotland!