Judo fighter Colin Oates will always be left to reflect on what might have been at London 2012, but is determined to continue his progress up the world rankings with a medal on the opening day of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
The 31-year-old – brought up in Norfolk, but now training at the Ratho club near Edinburgh with Judo Scotland – reached the Olympic quarter-finals in the half-lightweight under-66kgs category before losing to eventual gold medallist Lasha Shavdatuashvili of Georgia.
A subsequent defeat by Cho Jun-Ho in the repechage, the Korean eventually going on to win the bronze fight-off, may continue to rankle Oates, but the Englishman feels he has become a stronger person for the experience with consistent results on the International Judo Federation circuit.
“Looking back, London was probably a missed opportunity,” he said on the eve of the Games. “The guy I lost to, I fought him at the World Championships last year and beat him, which just added more to my frustrations.
“However, from that disappointment, it has actually inspired me, pushed me on harder, making me believe there is more to come from me.
“I always felt that I would peak at the Olympics, but strangely enough maybe it has been after the Games where I have really come along, climbing the world rankings up into the top ten. I have beaten some really high-class fighters, so it has been a really good period for me. It all seems to be coming together, and I just have to hold everything together now.
“I can now look to get a great result here at the Commonwealth Games and then push on over the next two years towards Rio.”
Oates has a first-round bye in Pool A, and, if both fighters progress, could come up against Team GB squad-mate James Millar – a late call-up to replace injured 100kg Scotland judoka James Austin – in the semi-finals.
While the two men are close friends off the mat, Oates maintains that will all be put aside for a few minutes once the buzzer sounds.
“When James was trying to qualify for the Scotland team, I was helping him out when he was away by covering his classes, so I guess I played a part in him getting here,” Oates said.
“We have fought each other a couple of times at big tournaments in the past.
“All of us [British] judo players have a good relationship off the mat but, when we fight, that focus all changes.
“You are not thinking about them as your friend or colleague – it is just, ‘this is the guy I am going to beat to get the medal’.”
Jamie MacDonald will fight for Wales in the under-66kgs, with four categories to be decided today.
There is also home nation interest in the women’s under-48kgs, with Scotland’s Kimberley Renicks.
Connie Ramsey will fight at under-57kgs, along with Stephanie Inglis. Nekoda Davis represents Team England, with Kirsty Powell fighting for Wales.
At under-52kgs, Glasgow’s Louise Renicks is in action, along with Lisa Kearney of Northern Ireland, while England’s Kelly Edwards has been drawn against Jade Lewis of Wales in the first round.
London 2012 Olympian Ashley McKenzie is determined to land gold in the men’s under-66kgs, in which Scotland veteran John Buchanan and Brandon Dodge of Wales will also compete.
“I am feeling good, feeling confident and ready. If everything comes together, and I have 80 per cent of a good day, I reckon I will win a gold. If I have 50 per cent, I still reckon I will medal,” said McKenzie, who took up the sport aged 11 after getting into a street fight.
“The difference in me now is I have had a lot of ups and downs after the Olympics, with going into Big Brother, not knowing if I deserved to be there or it was just because I was ‘bad’.
“But now I have worked so hard for this – it is not just luck and I do deserve to be here.
“I have the drive, and momentum is behind me. I am in a better place now, have done so many more tournaments, can look forward to the World Championship and hopefully I can get into the top ten ahead of the Olympics.”