Commonwealth Games 2014: Euan Burton gold burnishes Scots' record judo tally
Sunday 27 July 2014
For the second time at these glorious Glaswegian Commonwealth Games, Euan Burton was parading around an arena proudly waving a Saltire. The veteran judoka first did so as flag-bearer for the host nation at the grand opening bash down London Road at Celtic Park last Wednesday night.
The home of the hooped ones also happens to be known as Paradise, and last night Hall Three at the SECC must have felt like that to the 35-year-old as he clinically executed the winning move in the men's -100kg gold-medal match before grasping a blue and white Scottish flag and raising it high in celebration.
It was a fittingly heroic conclusion to a long, distinguished career for Burton but it might have been more divine. While the Caledonian hero was savouring his Midas moment with the microphone-clutching media in a corner of the arena, England's Gemma Gibbons was directly behind him, preparing to walk out for the medal-presentation ceremony for the women's -78kg division. Her face could hardly have been a greater picture of dejection. Instead of a golden double, one half of the husband and wife cross-border team was left with a silver lining of the consolation variety.
It was a poignant contrast on a night when Scottish fighters scrapped like demons to add three more gold medals to their judo tally, matching England's haul from the competition, and when Wales also got in on the act, it left Britons with 13 of the 14 golds from the three days of action.
At London 2012, in Gibbons' home town, the emotions had been the other way round. Then, Burton had bowed out in tears in the second round, his lifetime dream of Olympic gold in tatters. His wife had gone into the Games ranked 42nd but emerged with a silver medal.
On that occasion, at the moment Gibbons secured her reward, she pointed upwards and mouthed: "I love you, mum," in tribute to her late mother. Last night, the 27-year-old adopted Edinburgher was on the back foot from the off and unable to get the better of Natalie Powell.
Powell hails from mid-Wales, the same neck of the woods as Kirsty Wade, who won double middle- distance gold on the athletics track at the last Commonwealth Games on Scottish soil, in Edinburgh in 1986. "I followed the game plan and it worked," said the 23-year-old, after collecting what was only the second gold in any sport for Team Wales at Glasgow 2014 – and their first in judo at any Commonwealth Games.
"I came here with one goal and I didn't achieve it," lamented Gibbons. "I wasn't good enough."
It was different when it came to her husband's gold-medal match. Gibbons was sitting at the side of the arena, waiting for her medal ceremony as Burton held his nerve before nailing his opponent, Shah Hussain Shah, with a text-book Ippon move.
"This doesn't make up for the disappointment of London, because I worked my whole life to try to be Olympic champion and I came up short," he said. "But it's just fantastic. I'm proud that I've been able to do it for Scotland.
"I didn't watch Gemma's fight, I was in the warm-up room trying to stay as focused as I could. Obviously she'll be massively disappointed because she came here for gold."
Burton confirmed he was "done and dusted" with fighting, pledging to concentrate on coaching in future. Happily, there is no shortage of Scottish talent to work with.
In the two remaining gold-medal matches, Sarah Adlington (-78kg) and Chris Sherrington (+100kg) both came out on top. Following the successes of the Renicks sisters, Kimberley and Louise, and of Sarah Clark on the preceding two nights, that made it six judo golds for Scotland.
That, in turn, matched the record tally of golds by Scotland's celebrated swimming squadron in Melbourne in 2006. But they won 12 medals in all. These Caledonian judokas finished with 13, with two silvers and five bronzes.
The screaming hordes packed into Hall Three were not just hailing a bunch of great Scots; they were acclaiming the greatest Scottish Commonwealth Games crew of all time.
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