Judo’s European Open comes to Glasgow’s Emirates Arena next Saturday and Malin Wilson cannot wait. Not so much to perform in front of a home crowd, the 21-year-old from Ullapool declares, but for the opportunity to test herself against the elite foes.
Newly returned from Japan, where she immersed herself in the relentless regime of the renowned Tokai dojo, the Scot senses large advances have been secured.
“It was incredible,” she enthused. “I was there for six weeks and I didn’t want to leave. It was amazing.”
Picking up priceless insights from those who have eaten, slept and breathed the craft since their youth will serve a finishing school, Wilson hopes, for a concerted push into the senior ranks and elevation up the rankings. Foundations have been laid. Earlier this year, she took bronze at the European Cup event in Bratislava by surprising her elders, a small but useful sign that the graft at Judo Scotland’s hub at Ratho and elsewhere is reaping rewards.
“Unless you start getting results,” she admitted, “you sometimes wonder: ‘Well, is this all going to pay off?’ But once you get a wee breakthrough, it gives you something else to feed off. It gives you that positivity that you can do something with all the practice that’s been put in. Like every athlete, you want more after that. But at the time, it felt great.”
Wilson will ideally wish to return to Japanese soil, four years hence, for the 2020 Olympics. The long road to Tokyo starts here and will spirit her all around the world. However there may be a significant detour ahead. It has been confirmed that the sizeable contingent of Lottery-funded fighters at Ratho, including the recent Olympic bronze medallist Sally Conway, will be forced to decamp to British Judo’s headquarters at Walsall next year as a part of a centralisation strategy that has not been universally welcomed.
“That’s all a bit uncertain,” her would-be successor acknowledged. “Once that’s made clear and when it’s settled, I’ll have a better idea of what pathway I have to take. But it will be a case of training more, training harder, and going into harder competitions. I left home three and a half years ago and so it doesn’t really matter to me where I’m training, as long as I get the volume I need.”