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Commonwealth Games: Euan Burton grabs judo gold

Euan Burton of Scotland, in white, defeats Shah Hussain Shah of Pakistan in the Men's +100kg Judo gold medal final. Picture: Getty

Euan Burton of Scotland, in white, defeats Shah Hussain Shah of Pakistan in the Men's +100kg Judo gold medal final. Picture: Getty

  • by AIDAN SMITH
 

SCOTLAND’S pyjama party at the judo continued into its third thrilling night with gold for Euan Burton, two other medals and the promise of yet more to come.

Burton, Scotland’s Games flag-bearer, led the way again with his triumph in the -100kg category, beating Shah Hussain Shah of Pakistan in the final.

The sport’s last medals session got off to a great start with a bronze for Scot Andrew Burns in the -90k category, quickly followed by silver for Matthew Purssey in the same category.

“That was hard but the crowd were unbelievable,” Burns said after his win against Mark Anthony of Australia.

“I’ve never competed in front of people who were that positive and just so loud.

“So much so it was hard to keep my thoughts but they really pushed me on and gave me some strength towards end of the fight.

“I came here hoping to get gold, so there are mixed emotions. After the morning session, I needed to get over the disappointment and clear my head. I had a sleep and then I watched some boxing. I got ready for tonight watching guys punch each other in the face, which was cool.

“Judo in Scotland is in a brilliant place right now.”

Purssey was beaten by South Africa’s Zack Piontek. Euan Burton, Sarah Adlington and Chris Sherrington were all due on the mat later.

Burton’s wife Gemma Gibbons, who lost to Wales’ Natalie Powell at -78kg, said: “Not good enough, I’m afraid. I’m disappointed with myself.”

Despite fighting for different teams, she and Burton had a chance to offer mutual support. “We both had jobs to do today but we managed to say good luck and spend some time together.

“We’d obviously been hoping to meet up later with two golds.”

The judo crowd on Day 3 was another mix of the cognoscenti and the curious but with every ingenue to the sport already that bit more sussed.

With fights over so quickly they now know they must concentrate, and latch on quick to a fighter’s idiosyncrasies.

For instance, once the formal bowing is over, Burton likes to thrust his hands in the air like a cartoon bogeyman. And, in his first time on the mat, he didn’t hang about – a win over Kenya’s Evans Kengara in just 23 seconds. He was quickly followed by the missus, Gibbons winning her opening contest in 30 seconds.

Maybe they had a bet at the breakfast-table over who would be faster.

Tiny moments of theatre were highly-prized. The Mauritius coach – an elderly man with grey hair – looked like another who is fond of throwing his hands in the air – in his case to exult to his god. But, being the Mauritius coach, he doesn’t get to do it very often.

Of course, most of the theatre happens on the mats, and Kenya’s Esther Ratugi was her own one-woman Fringe show, a gigantor who seemed to have only one move, but what a move. When Esther sat on you – as the Sri Lankan Widanalage Wewita would testify – that was generally fight over.

But, in the semis, Ratugi met her match. Adlington’s Twitter handle is @bigyin78. Ratugi is a much bigger yin but, in this contest, she picked up four shidos – yellow cards – for a hansoku and disqualification.

Purssey won his quarter-final against Stephane Ombiongno of Cameroon the same way and, in the semis, came up against the man with best fighting name in the contest – Mark Anthony. But there the link to Julius Caesar’s military commander seemed to end. The Australian had no answer to the scorpion-like pounces of Purssey, who triumphed with a waza-ari near the end.

In the Games’ opening ceremony Burton had looked braw carrying the Saltire with one hand. He obviously adheres to the same belief as Willie Miller when the Aberdeen football captain was lifting all those cups, that only jessies would need the help of another hand or, in the parade-leader’s case, a holster.

Burton looked just as braw darting out a hand to grab a handful of collar or a fistful of sleeve. He was a hugely impressive fighter, with a serenity about him when he wasn’t being absolutely bloody ferocious. Opponents had to beware his feet, sweeping like scimitars. There was a terrific determination about him to get the job done, the gold won, the display cabinet at home evened up.

Sherrington was also hugely impressive, as well as being hugely huge. This ex-Marine didn’t need to flag up that he was big - he just was. From a distance, unable to see his face, you could tell it was him about to march to the mat – no one filled the archway entrance quite like him, not even Esther Ratugi.

Sherrington is one of the adopted Scots who’ve been lured to Edinburgh by its grand judo traditions from the amateur era and the quality of its coaching in the pro age. In Glasgow these past three days, they’ve won medals, crowned careers and – with a heave and a grunt – pushed their sport into the spotlight. Did we submit? Yes, willingly. Now it’s a shame the pyjama party is over.

 

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