Commonwealth Games: Purssey aims to end career with judo gold

By Keir MurrayBBC Sport Scotland
Scottish judo player Matt Purssey
Matt Purssey feels he is 'in great shape technically, physically and mentally' as he prepares for the Commonwealth Games

The finishing line is in sight for Matt Purssey. His competitive judo career could end in less than six weeks' time.

Purssey is convinced he can win gold for Scotland at the Commonwealth Games at Glasgow's SECC this summer.

It would be the perfect way for the 33-year-old to ease into retirement, except he has no desire to take it easy.

Instead, he's determined to bring through the next tranche of Scottish judoka at Ratho, Judo Scotland's headquarters.

He currently coaches there and plans to commit fully to it soon, ruling out a tilt at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

"I think I'm going to retire after these Games," he told BBC Scotland.

Matt Purssey takes on France's Yves Matthieu Dafreville at the European Judo Championships in 2012
Purssey takes on France's Yves Matthieu Dafreville at the European Judo Championships in Chelyabinsk in 2012

"In October I took a position as the national transition coach.

"I coach the junior team in Scotland and that's what I want to dedicate myself to and I think it wouldn't be fair if I carried on competing.

"You have to be quite selfish as an athlete and as a coach you have to be the opposite; you have to give a lot of yourself to other people.

"I want to give these guys the best I can to help those guys achieve their potential."

Purssey grew up in Surrey and moved to Edinburgh more than a decade ago.

He is coached at Ratho by David Somerville, who won a silver medal for Scotland the last time judo was in the Commonwealth Games, in Manchester 12 years ago.

He trains with , with whom he shared a flat for five years and believes he holds his own, most of the time, when on the practice mats with the two-time world bronze medallist and double Olympian.

In his time in Scotland he has won the British title at three different weights, has been the British Open champion on three occasions and has claimed seven medals at World Cups and Continental Opens.

He also fights for UJKC Potsdam, a club that competes in the Deutsche Judo Bundesliga.

Now, though, he's planning a last hurrah as a competitor before giving something back to judo.

"Because it is an individual sport, you become self-obsessed and very diligent in what you're trying to achieve," he explained at an event at Stirling Castle to reveal the final places in Team Scotland for the Glasgow Games.

"You get to a point when you realise that and you reflect on it and you almost want to make up for it, you want to give something back.

"There is no better way to do that than by coaching. You give of yourself, of your experience and your knowledge.

"Both myself and Euan have been fortunate that Judo Scotland and, for Euan, the Scottish Institute of Sport have seen fit to give us positions and support us in that nurturing and development role and I'm going to grasp it with both hands."

Purssey is ranked 49th in the International Judo Federation's world rankings, with third places at the Continental Opens in Argentina and Uruguay helping to establish him in the top 50.

The Scotland judo team for Glasgow 2014
The Scotland judo team for Glasgow 2014: James Austin, Matthew Purssey, Sarah Adlington, Patrick Dawson, Sarah Clark, Connie Ramsay, Stephanie Inglis, Kimberley Renicks, Louise Renicks, John Buchanan, Sally Conway, Euan Burton, Andy Burns, Chris Sherrington

If he is to win Commonwealth gold on 26 July, he will have to defeat two men who are above him in the world rankings who will also have their eyes on the top prize in Glasgow.

The world number 20, Ryan Dill-Russell from New Zealand, is ranked first in the Commonwealth at under 90kg, while the 24-year-old Australian Mark Anthony is 30th in the world list.

And, of course, is also determined to fight his way on to the podium in that weight division.

"Andy's ranking and mine are very similar," Purssey said.

"The rivalry is a great thing for pushing us both to get a result at the Commonwealth Games. It's been really good for the team. It's like that in a few weight categories."

When Purssey gives his prediction on how he might fare at the competition, it is delivered calmly and with sincerity.

"If I perform to the best of my abilities I can win the Games," he said.

"I'm in great shape technically, physically and mentally.

"Everyone I'm competing against I've fought at some point, and I've beaten pretty much everyone.

"I don't see why, if I perform on the day, I can't be the champion."

If he does win the top prize, it will certainly focus the minds of his students at Ratho.