AS MISCHIEVOUS tyros growing up in Campbeltown, the Robertson twins learned quickly that looking identical was a ready means to confuse and deceive.
Often, in judo competitions, young Donna and Fiona would trade places and “work it out later,” sharing confidences, dreams and goals that would eventually lead to both claiming Commonwealth bronze.
Since the pair, now aged 45, switched to wrestling six years ago, they have remained almost impossible to separate. But when they arrived yesterday, minutes apart, on the mats of the SECC, Donna – the younger by six minutes – was easily distinguished. And the heavy strapping around her left thigh may have been the difference between snaffling a medal and limping tamely away.
Receiving thunderous applause when she arrived for her 48kg category quarter-final with Cameroon’s Rebecca Muambo, her ambitions were swiftly silenced. Within seconds, the Scot was pinned on her front. It was an indication of what lay in store. Her rival and sometime training partner was too mobile and too strong. The score was 11-0 and it reflected a chasm.
Robertson’s ailment was no mere tweak, she revealed. Five weeks ago, during a training session in Sardinia, her cruciate sustained a partial tear with scans showing the ligament hanging by a thread. “A girl caught my knee and I felt it go,” she said. “I was devastated. I had a similar injury ten years ago so I knew the risk was there. As soon as I heard it go, I thought that was the Games over. It was terrible. It just popped. I thought it was okay at the start and I went back to training a few days later. But my leg was just giving way.”
The consequent entrance of Fiona could not soothe her competitive pain. She lost her opener 4-0 to England’s eventual silver medallist Yana Rattigan but had a reprieve in the repechage. Muambo was again the tormentor, claiming bronze with a 10-0 rout that ensured the sisters left empty-handed.
Yet this was always as much about the journey as the destination, Fiona declared. Neither had truly been able to savour the lead-up to the Games with the participation of Donna in serious doubt. “Emotionally, I went through it all as well,” confirmed Fiona, who sustained an identical injury in the same knee before Delhi 2010. “I know the feeling when it happens and the emotions you go through. It was really hard to watch her go through that pain. And even in the training afterward, trying to make it back.”
There will be time now to recuperate. But not, immediately, to retire. The lone regret was that a cavalcade of old schoolfriends from their youth had not received better returns on their ticketing investment. “I wish I’d got the result they wanted,” said Donna.
They may go on for a while yet. There will be other fights to wage. Armed with their knowledge of two sports and the production of over-achievers, the siblings plan to create their own hub for wrestling in Lanarkshire to provide a pathway for others to come through.
“A lot of people don’t know what freestyle is,” Fiona said. “They used to think it was what they watched on Saturday afternoons but now it’s UFC or WWE. But this is one of the oldest sports, back to the original Olympics. Hopefully, they will see a sport that isn’t about show.
“Maybe we’ll get some judo players in. They’re not allowed to do leg grabs any more so maybe a few who still fancy doing that will come over to wrestling. That used to be one of Kimberley Renicks’ favourite techniques so when she’s finished with judo, we’ll have her.”
Gold in their category went to India’s Vitesh who edged Rattigan 11-8 while her compatriot Amit Kumar defeated Nigeria’s Ebikweminomo Welson for the men’s 57kg title. There was a third Indian triumph by Sushil Kumar in the 78kg division with an 8-0 rout of Pakistan’s Qamar Abbas but hopes of a clean sweep were thwarted by Canada’s Korey Jarvis, who ousted Rajeev Tomar 3-0 to atone for his final reverse in 2010.