We spoke to our medal winners from the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games to hear firsthand accounts of their remarkable success.

One year ago today, our Scottish judoka created their own piece of history by entering the tatami for the first time at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games. Though the sport was not included in the 2018 edition, spirits were high thanks to the success of the 2014 Games in Glasgow, where 13 medals were won (6 gold, 2 silver, 5 bronze) over three days, making judo the most successful Scottish sport at a single Commonwealth Games in history.  

In total, 11 judokas travelled up to Birmingham for the games and, with a strong Scottish support behind them, they were once again successful, taking home four medals (1 gold, 1 silver, and 2 bronze). 

Seven Scottish judoka took to the mats for day one. Finlay Allan was the first to secure a medal, earning silver in his debut appearance at the games. Following an impressive early round showing, beating Mauro Nassone of Mozambique, Steven Mungandu of Zambia and Jasleen Saini of India in the semi-final to come up against Georgios Balarjishvili of Cyprus in the final. It was a thrilling affair and the Cypriot managed to pip Finlay to gold; “The commonwealth games was different to any event I had ever competed in. The media attention was pretty strange to me and the crowd atmosphere was on a different level. I enjoyed the crowd and it helped me with each fight. The most memorable moment was seeing my family and friends in the crowd. They don’t often get to watch me compete so it was really special to have them there and celebrate with them afterwards. 

Malin Wilson was the next Scottish judoka to secure a medal, winning bronze after beating England’s Lele Nairne in Golden Score. Malin’s path to the bronze medal wasn’t straightforward, after winning in her first-round bout she was defeated by second seed Acelya Toprak which meant she went into the repechage and had to win against New Zealand’s Qona Christie to put her back in contention for a bronze medal. Thankfully, a fine display meant she was able to add to the growing medals list. 

Having only recently returned to full training, after an eight-month break for knee surgery – Malin Wilson used the upcoming games as motivation during her recovery period: “I completed eight months post knee surgery, but I went knowing that I had to pick up a medal. If you can focus in the right moments and keep your mind strong and focused in those moments everything is slightly more possible.” National pride also was at the forefront of Malin’s mind, being desperate to add to Scotland’s medal haul pushed her on even further, “I could feel the Scotland logo on my back and the pack patch on my kit. I felt pride but with that came a sense of duty and I felt I must win.” 

We didn’t have to wait long to see our judoka on the podium again as day three saw Sarah Adlington become the first Scottish judoka ever to win two gold medals. Sarah’s success in 2014 meant she was able to use past experience to ensure she had the best possible chance of repeated success: “I think I used everything that I have learned through my judo career to help me win last year. One of the key things I’ve learnt is that you have to enjoy every moment both on and off the mat. A games always brings different pressures. You can go and compete week in week out at judo competitions sometimes you win and sometimes you learn. Often friends and family aren’t even aware that you are competing. When it comes to a games, more people know about it and are interested, the media are interested too, and this is very different for judo players.  I think there was added pressure on me as people assumed because I’d won before I’d do it again, I was very aware though, that in sport anything can happen. My face was on posters in our accommodation and in the Team Scotland house which was a first for me! I had made a solid plan with Billy and Greg for the time we spent in Birmingham before I competed so that everything was geared towards performing my best.”  

Sarah certainly did perform at her best, after beating Dianah Kana of Kenya by Nippon in the quarter-final and beating Abigail Paduch of Australia with a Waza-Ari in the semi-final she faced Tulika Maan of India in the +78kg final. She found herself trailing though was able to produce the decisive ippon, retaining her gold medal. 

Though the tatami may have been in Coventry, you could be forgiven for thinking it was in the heart of Scotland with the stands draped in saltires and a vocal Scottish crowd belting out Flower of Scotland. 

Though the success did not end there for our judoka, Rachel Tytler was able to progress into the bronze medal fight having beaten Hayley Mackay of New Zealand by ippon. Rachel was able to dispatch Coralie Godbout of Canada within 30 seconds, winning again by ippon securing bronze in her debut games.   

Straight after her bout, Rachel was immediately able to share her success with those closest to her: “For me, the most memorable moment was just after I won my bronze medal match, as I went to walk off the mat I look to the crowd behind my opponent and saw two of my best friends. As I turned to face the other side I saw my family, and as I walked off towards Euan I saw my club behind him. I had no idea where any of them were sat. At that moment my eyes were drawn to the most precious people, no matter where I looked. The support and team spirit from every single Scot in the stadium was incredible. You could hear the support throughout the whole thing. It was incredible being able to compete in front of my family and friends, most of which was their first competition to watch. Being able to share the experience, joy and success with them was phenomenal.” 

A year has now passed since our judoka’s success in Birmingham. Though the team is made up of athletes from across the country, coming from different clubs. The shared team spirit at the games proved to be a huge driving point behind their success.  

Finlay Allan said: “The team atmosphere was great and played a big part. It was great to have a team around us to keep us in the best shape possible it was a massive help.” Malin Wilson added: “Judo is unbelievably hard in so many ways and on so many levels. A strong support network is ideal.” Sarah Adlington echoed their statements: “It’s so important if you want to be successful in anything to have a good team around you that want the best for you.” 

The 2022 Commonwealth Games has reaffirmed our judoka’s love for the sport, Rachel Tytler explained: “My medal was a bit of a confidence boost for my judo. However, I imagine for most judoka it would make them strive for more medals but for me, it has changed my mindset in that I need to enjoy what I’m doing more in order to succeed rather than chasing the medal.” 

As we reflect on the one-year anniversary of our Scottish judoka’s historic achievements at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, we are reminded of the indomitable spirit and dedication that brought them success. The games were a moment of pride for Scottish judo, as our athletes once again proved their prowess on the world stage, securing four medals in total and fantastic performances from all Scottish Judoka. From Finlay Allan’s remarkable silver medal debut to Malin Wilson’s hard-fought bronze after a challenging recovery, our judoka’s determination was unwavering. Sarah Adlington’s outstanding feat of becoming the first Scottish judoka to win two gold medals showcased her expertise and passion for the sport. Rachel Tytler’s bronze medal win highlighted the power of a strong support network and the sense of camaraderie that binds our team together. As we look back on this extraordinary chapter in our sporting history, we are inspired by the shared team spirit and can’t wait to see what’s to come in the next year.