SARAH CLARK signed off her judo career in style as she claimed a gold medal for Scotland in her final international tournament before retirement.
Clark, who was born and raised in South Shields before moving to Edinburgh around a decade ago, contemplated retirement after crashing out in the first round of the 2012 Olympics in London.
She was persuaded to remain in active competition in order to represent Scotland in a home Commonwealth Games, and her decision was richly rewarded as she claimed the biggest success of her career in Glasgow’s SECC last night.
Competing in the under-63kg class, the 36-year-old saw off India’s Garima Choudhary and Australia’s Katharina Haecker in order to guarantee herself a medal, before outclassing Cameroon’s Helene Wezeu Dombeu in a surprisingly one-sided final.
Clark, who has competed in three Olympic Games and is a former European champion, will now call time on her career, having bowed out on a high.
“This will be my last competitive tournament for sure,” said the veteran. “That is what I came here to do, and I have come out with the result I wanted and came to get.
“Today I feel like I have done it because of the crowd. My family and friends have come to see me – it is for them, and for Scotland. My motivation was always there, and to keep the momentum going for Scottish judo is fantastic.”
Having won a silver medal when judo was last on the Commonwealth programme at the 2002 Games in Manchester, Clark started yesterday’s competition as a strong medal prospect.
Her opening win was a routine affair, but her semi-final victory over Haecker, which pitted the two best fighters in the weight category against each other, had a capacity home crowd on its feet.
She rolled back the years to win by ippon, setting up a final with Dombeu that ended abruptly when Clark delivered an armlock submission to secure Scotland’s third judo gold in the space of two days.
“All day has been pretty nervous, and on the back of what happened yesterday, with all the medals Scotland won in the judo, I guess there is that added pressure,” she said.
“There were moments when I thought my body was not going to make it, even though you want to, and bits are falling off.
“They changed the rules recently, and that affected my judo, which put doubts in my head, but as I started getting fitter again, I made the decision I was going to compete, and if I was going to compete, then I was going to be as fit as possible, today I could not have felt better.”
There were two bronze medals for English fighters beneath the North-Easterner, with teenager Katie-Jemima Yeats-Brown beating Canadian Beatrice Valois Fortier and Faith Pitman seeing off Haecker.
The judo hall has proved a successful hunting ground for British competitors, and England were celebrating two more gold-medal successes of their own last night courtesy of Danny Williams and Megan Fletcher.
Williams was only at the Commonwealths because of an injury to Ben Fletcher, but he made the most of his late call-up to claim his first major tournament victory.
He proved too strong for New Zealand’s Adrian Leat in a bruising final that ended when Williams was adjudged the winner by waza-ari.
Fletcher had to dig deep to come through some of the early rounds of the under-70kg section, and was pushed to the limit in a closely-fought final with New Zealand’s Moira de Villiers.
There was little to choose between the two fighters, but a well-judged ground hold enabled Fletcher to come out on top by ippon.