Medal expectations for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games are already sky-high after the phenomenal performance of Scottish athletes in London this summer.
And with the country expecting, the pressure is on to deliver in as many of the 17 sports and para-sports as possible.
One sport which is well-placed to produce the goods is judo – with a world-class performance programme already in place and, quite rightly, receiving plaudits.
The sportscotland institute of sport judo programme, which is based at JudoScotland’s National Training Centre in Ratho, Edinburgh, is brimming full of talented athletes and coaches.
Double Paralympian Sam Ingram has trained at the national base for the past six years and at the London Games won a silver medal, an improvement on the bronze gained in Beijing four years previously.
Powerhouse Royal Marine Chris Sherrington is also honing his skills at the Ratho centre, having been given another two-year sports draft by the military to help him prepare for Glasgow 2014. The 29-year-old came to the fore in 2011, when winning World Cup gold in Samoa, and with the experience gained at the Olympics this summer is now very much considered a Commonwealth Games contender.
And while the world-class programme in Edinburgh continues to provide numerous internationals at GB level in all age categories, the news that Olympic silver medallist Gemma Gibbons will now train at the centre is yet another boost.
However, it is not by chance that the sportscotland programme is producing, and attracting, some of the UK’s top talents. With a coaching team headed up by Commonwealth Games silver medallist David Somerville, and ably assisted by double Olympian Euan Burton, as well as a host of other first-class coaches, the team has all the necessary attributes to help mould the next generation of champions.
Somerville is held in high esteem throughout the judo world, and his talents were saluted recently when he picked up the Coach of the Year Award at the Scottish Sports Awards. The accolade was worthy recognition for his personal coaching of Sam Ingram to a silver medal at the London 2012 Paralympics.
In congratulating Somerville on the award, Mike Whittingham, Director of High Performance at the sportscotland institute of sport, also pointed to the high expectations which are now on the Scots judo players’ shoulders. Whittingham said:
“We are delighted that David has been recognised for his personal coaching of Sam Ingram and also driving forward a very successful Scottish performance programme.
“An impressive 20 per cent of the Paralympic team came from Scotland and 35 per cent of the Olympic team were selected from the Ratho-based athletes, a fantastic achievement for JudoScotland and the sportscotland institute of sport.
“We are also hoping that with Euan Burton now joining the team as Assistant High Performance Coach, judo could repeat the medal success it had in Manchester at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.”
Dougie Bryce, CEO of JudoScotland, added:
“We have an extremely successful and highly-valued partnership with the sportscotland institute of sport, with all parties involved working hard to establish a world-class programme in Ratho.
“It is a real boost in an Olympic and Paralympic year for David, his support team, and Judo in Scotland to receive this award.
“With the continued support from our partners, and David’s undoubted expertise, we look forward to a bright future and more home-grown success at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.”
Somerville first joined the institute in 2005, and was promoted to head coach in 2009 when Graeme Randall MBE stepped down. Since his appointment, he has worked hard to establish a close rapport with the British programme based in Dartford and is currently helping advise British Judo on its future plans as part of the Project Rio.
Burton was appointed as Assistant High Performance Coach in October, following a heart-breaking end to his Olympic career. The 33-year-old – who has won two World Championship and three European Championship medals – hit the headlines during the London Games after giving an emotional interview in the wake of his defeat to Antoine Valois-Fortier of Canada, ending his medal hopes at the first hurdle.