Following the news earlier today that Sally Conway is to retire, calling time on a career that started over 26 years ago, and has seen her become only one of two British female judoka to medal at the Olympic Games, World and European Championships and the Commonwealth Games.
The British Judo World Class Performance Programme pay tribute to one of the greatest judoka to have represented Great Britain.
Ronnie Saez, Chairman of British Judo, leads the tributes to Sally saying: “Sally has been a pioneer for British Judo for a number of years and she will leave a big hole in British Judo. Her storied career will have inspired a range of new judoka to step onto the mat and we will always be grateful for her contribution both on and off the mat.
“I will never forget some of her career highlights from watching her claim GB Judo’s sole medal at the Rio Olympics to completing her international medal collection at the World Championships in Tokyo. The smile on her face throughout those events was infectious.
“I would like to thank UK Sport and the National Lottery that have helped fund Sally’s journey to success. We are saddened that we won’t see her grace a judo mat again but wish her every success for the future!”
Andrew Scoular, British Judo CEO, added: “It is always a sad day when an athlete tells you that they will be retiring, but when Sally informed us of her decision last week, this felt different. Sally has often been the shining light of GB Judo across her incredible 17 year career. Her natural ability and steely determination to succeed in such a competitive weight category saw her claim a number of landmark victories across the world.
“She will be sorely missed by athletes, coaches and members alike who have followed her career with hope and anticipation every time she stepped onto the mat. She certainly won’t be missed by her fellow competitors however, especially when Sally forced them to the mat!!”
Nigel Donohue, British Judo Performance Director, said: “It is always tinged with sadness when an athlete makes the decision to retire in that we will never get to see them perform again on the World stage, but Sally Conway retires leaving behind an incredible amount of fantastic memories in a career spanning over 17 years at elite level. In the last 5 years, Sally has dominated the 70kg weight category and achieved the ‘Grand Slam’ of winning a European, World and Olympic medal, plus a Paris Grand Slam gold and a Commonwealth Games bronze. This is no mean feat, as the last GB athlete to achieve such a set of results was Kate Howey, over 20 years ago.
“Sally is a fantastic role model for her team-mates and all up and coming young athletes who have had the pleasure to train with her or share the same training mat as her. She is an extremely hard working, dedicated and professional athlete who gives her best every day. For me, I have some outstanding highlights in my memory bank. For example, when Sally was being held down by the then World Champion, Emane in Rio 2016 and reversed the hold to win the fight and then go onto win Bronze – a defining moment in her competition day and also the day that she won Paris and beating the World No.1, Arai of Japan, in the final – these are just two of many, but are performances of a level that many dream of and only a few ever achieve.
“We wish Sally all the very best in her future endeavours and have no doubt, her Judo experiences and application to her sport for so long, will transfer into being as much as a success she was on the mat as well as off it. Thank you Sally for all the great memories.”
Kate Howey, British Judo Head Coach, said: “I have watched and been involved with Sally as a judo fighter since she was 16 years old. There have been many highs and lows throughout this time and the highs far outweigh the lows. I have seen her mature from a young girl into an Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth medallist and watched her hard work payoff in the end.
“I will miss the constant smile and happy aura that she brings whenever she walks into a room but I must say it was my pleasure to coach her and be part of the fantastic career that she has had and I wish her all the best for whatever is next on her journey.”