IT STARTED off with play-fighting in the living room but the hope is that it will culminate with two medals at this month’s Commonwealth Games.
Renicks sisters Louise, 31, and Kimberley, 26, are both representing Scotland on the judo mats in Glasgow, aware that it is a step up from pretend fighting each other and their brother Thomas for sibling superiority.
Those household tussles have helped honed the ladies’ feistiness and competitive spirit, with the baby of the family, Kimberley, explaining that her judo skills helped her on several occasions.
“It was my dad who first put me on the judo mat when I was four, while Louise started when she was 11, so I had those few more years and learned to land a bit better so when they tried to beat me up I knew how to run away and wriggle my way out of it!”
Their brother was also an keen exponent of the art until his body forced him to spend a few years on the sidelines.
“He did it up until going through puberty,” says Louise. “But during his developing his spine started to turn and he was getting rib and knee pain. His body was trying to grow and he was very small and underweight then and his spine was curving. He’s not very small or underweight now and he’s back to doing it. He’s got his black belt and I think in his head he reckons he can compete with us. He’s seen his younger sister has a black belt before him so he had to come back and say ‘look, I can do it too’.”
Thinking you’re better than your sisters is one thing; proving it, when they are both elite standard and have their sights set on a home Commonwealth Games, is not as straightforward, though.
“We’re a very close family and we were all visiting before he got married two years ago and we were trying to show off in front of his mates,” says Louise, sharing a knowing look and smile with Kimberley. “When we’re together we do a bit posing – outside of the house we’re not vain people but when we’re in the house we’re very vain and very competitive – but he was showing off the bicep muscles so we kind of ‘accidentally’ tripped him up and had him on the ground. Kim’s got one arm and I’ve got the other – we’re both double arm-locking him and his face was going purple. His friends were all laughing and we were saying: ‘I don’t know why you have to show off in front of your friends.’ It was his wife who had to tell us to stop beating him up!
“It was a good carry on and that was really how we were brought up. It was my dad used to have us play fighting in the living room.”
Kimberley has moved down a weight to the -48kg category to prevent competition head to heads and the support they give each other is immense, but the sibling banter is never far from the surface and the wrestling has been replaced by verbal jousting.
Which is why the pressure is on to win the top prize or risk serious ribbing if the other does succeed.
“When we come home [from a competition], if both of us have got a medal then whoever’s got the highest is like: ‘I got silver, you got bronze’. We do that a wee bit,” says Kimberley. Louise just shakes her head. “She is the wide-o who does that! Even if I point out the 7-0 winning streak that I’m on then five minutes after she says something like ‘but you were cheating’. It’s just a relaxed thing to try to make each other laugh.”
“This year in Samoa [at the World Cup] I came away with the gold and Louise came away with the bronze but the year before both of us got the gold and both of us were on a real high. So this year I was like: ‘I doubled it, I doubled it this year. I’ve got two gold medals in my bag, how many have you got in your bag?’ We can wind each other up that way and then she’ll always say: ‘But I’m still beating you 7-0’.”
It was their dad who introduced them to judo but both parents are credited with their love of sport and the determined and competitive personalities.
“We’re from a very active, multi-sport family,” says Louise. “We were always active at school, always active in the playground, always outdoors. We were allowed computer games and things like that but we would only be allowed a certain amount of time. We’d be told to turn them off once and if we didn’t listen my dad would go to the electric box in the cupboard and switch everything off! My brother was more of the one to shout: “What are you doing? I haven’t saved that!”
“They just believed in having us outside. We’ve played rugby, we’ve tried wrestling and we’ve tried all different sports. We just naturally happened to be good at a lot of stuff but we always seemed to go back to judo for that drive and competition.
“My dad would do marathons and he would always tell us to try things out – if it was in blocks of six weeks you did it for the whole time, but then we could try another sport. He never forced us or said ‘you must do this sport or that’ but there was always the rule that you couldn’t just come and go, you had to dedicate yourself – in the house rules, at school and with sport. That’s how we’ve been brought up.”
While they still wind each other up they are well aware of how difficult it will be to win a medal in Glasgow. The sport is fraught with pitfalls and fortune plays a part. But Louise says their upbringing means that they will be satisfied if they know they have both given their all.
“There is a closeness and a bond that is quite hard to explain because it’s just so natural, but I think it comes back to how we’ve been brought up. Our mum and dad have always put us first and wanted us to be the best that we can be and I think that has just transferred on to us.”