SALLY CONWAY has vowed to come back stronger after her dreams were “shattered” on her Olympics debut.
After having time to reflect on her second round exit to eventual bronze medallist Edith Bosch in the —70kg category at London 2012, the 25-year-old judoka from Thornbury is determined to learn from the experience and put herself in medal contention at the major championships over the next four years, culminating in the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“I’ll take away all that I can, from the lead-up to it and the preparation to the experience of competing at an Olympics,” said Conway, who was ruled out for four months after undergoing surgery on her shoulder last week.
“In four years it won’t be my first Olympics so I’ll know what to expect.
“There are the Commonwealths in two years, which is going to be massive in Glasgow, and in between there’s the European and World Championships so I’ve got a lot to aim for.
“I’m looking forward to getting my shoulder fixed, getting on the road to recovery and winning medals.”
Conway felt a niggle in her shoulder after a pre-Olympics training camp in Japan and tore the ligaments in her first round victory over Carine Ngarlemdana, but insists that was not a factor in her defeat to Bosch.
The former Thornbury Judo Club member may have seen her dreams of winning gold in London evaporate, but she relished being part of Great Britain’s much-heralded ‘greatest ever team’, where she mixed with stars such as diving sensation Tom Daley.
Conway said: “I felt like the whole three weeks – from when I first kitted out to when I left the village – was an amazing experience.
“It was an honour to compete for my home country in front of a home crowd.
“It was a massive rollercoaster with lots of ups and downs. “After my fight I was disappointed and gutted – it’s what I had been working towards for four years and my dream was shattered – but I managed to pick myself up and the judo team had some great results and everything else about the experience was really good.
“I’ve never competed in a large crowd like that shouting for me so that was special.
“The day before I was watching in the crowd and thinking how am I going to feel with the crowd shouting and screaming, but when I was in the tunnel I was just excited and wanted to get out there and fight.”
Conway stayed in the athletes’ village throughout the Games and as well as cheering on Britain’s fellow judo players, she saw Nicola Adams become the first ever female Olympic boxing champion and Mo Farah race in his 5,000m heat on his way to gold at the Olympic Stadium.
“I sat right next to the flame and the heat was unreal,” said Conway.
“Everyone got behind each other, everyone was friendly and it was a really nice atmosphere to be around. I got friendly with the boxers, who are all down to earth.”
Amongst the highlights for Conway was being part of the closing ceremony and the opening ceremony, where she was close to flag bearer Sir Chris Hoy at the front.
“I met Chris Hoy parading through the opening ceremony and got a picture with him. He was really nice and down to earth,” said Conway.
“The closing ceremony was really nice, everyone was happy and enjoying the whole performance and then we went back to the village and had a massive party.”