Sally Conway, who has retired from judo after a glittering career

Super Sally

Euan Burton MBE leads tributes to Olympic judo medallist

Scottish judoka, Sally Conway, has announced her retirement from the sport after a glittering career spanning 26 years, winning medals at all of the world’s most prestigious competitions including the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and World Championships.

As she bows out of competitive sport, we take a look back at Sally's exceptional career with one of the people who knows her best - and, of course, Sally herself.

Smiling assassin

Euan Burton MBE, national high performance coach and former team-mate, paid tribute to the huge impact Sally has had on judo and on sport in Scotland.

He said: “Each and every person who has had the privilege of sharing in Sally’s journey has been inspired over and over again by her dedication, her belief and her positivity.

“Sally has delighted us throughout her career with her phenomenal judo ability and the thrills and spills of international competition, but it is her character that has always shone through.

“Her ashi-waza are sublime, the ne-waza at times so devastating you can sense the terror in her opponents, but even more memorable than the ippons are the person and the smiles. The smile as she rises from the mat in victory, the smile on the rostrum, the smile with her adversaries at the end of a brutal training session.

"No matter the situation there is always a smile for everyone from the judoka dubbed 'Super Sal'."

Career highlights

Her career highlights are so numerous it is almost impossible to mention them all. Sally has stood on the podium of every level of major competition from the British Championships all the way to the Olympic Games.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics she made history by becoming Scotland’s first Olympic judo medallist. She has had European and world glory and a staggering 20 IJF World Tour medals, including Grand Slam golds in Baku, Dusseldorf and Paris.

In 2013, she won the Olympic Athlete of the Year from the British Olympic Association and Female Player of the Year at the British Judo Awards.

'Scotland’s Greatest Judoka'

Sally was a key player in the JudoScotland team and a huge presence at their training base at Ratho, near Edinburgh. 

Euan added: “We hope that we will continue to see that smile on the mat in Scotland for many years to come and wish Sally all the best of luck with whatever challenge she takes on next.

"The saying goes that it is never the end of the book, just the end of a chapter – well what a thrilling chapter it has been, one whose title reads - Sally Conway, Scotland’s Greatest Judoka."

Do what makes you happy

Sally's decision hasn't been taken lightly but she knew the time was right to move on the next chapter in her life. On the day of her retirement she reflected on how the power of sport has shaped her life.

Sally said: “Judo is more than a sport. The life-long friends I have made and the amazing people I have met have made my time as an athlete very special.

“However, my heart now tells me that it is the right time for me to take a step back from competing.

"I am so grateful. I have learnt so much about myself. I’ve learnt what works for me and what doesn’t.

"My life as an athlete has been filled with so many highs and lows. The low times are when I learnt the most about myself. Getting through these times have made me the person and the athlete I am today.

"Having times like these made the highs even more special. Those high times were, without a doubt, 100% worth the effort. 

“If I can share one thing I learnt, it would be to do what makes you happy. When I was happy, both on and off the mat, my performance improved and when I performed really well medals followed.

"The medals didn’t follow every time, but as long as I performed, took it one fight at a time and left it all on the mat – I was happy then too!

“With a big smile on my face I would like to say THANK YOU to you all.” 

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