Jockeying for another British Championship title in a few days’ time is judoka Matthew Purssey. With seven British Championship titles already under his belt, Matt can also lay claim to a host of World Cup podium positions as well as a bronze in the 2011 London Olympic test event. However, when the eyes of the world turned to the ExCel Arena in the east of London for the 2012 Olympics, Matt was nowhere to be seen.
“I was second choice at the Olympics last year and it was bitterly disappointing. Second choice is basically a standby reserve who may get called up if somebody gets injured and it rarely happens. I was in the holding and training camp as a training partner for a guy in the weight category above but the Olympics is really the pinnacle in a judo player’s career, it is as a child what you aspire towards and I wasn’t there. I was 31 and I missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime to perform in front of the home crowd and it honestly almost ended my career.
“If it wasn’t for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, I would have called it a day. It is very exciting to be part of something like this and it is a fantastic opportunity to have your friends and family watching you - it is a huge motivator.”
One year on, Matt not only trains at the Judo Scotland headquarters in Edinburgh, but since October he is also employed as the National Transition Coach: “I work with 16-22 year olds who have big ambitions and I help them achieve them, which is very awarding” said Matt, who works alongside good friend and coach David Somerville in carefully balancing work commitments with training.
Matt’s coaching resume includes coaching Para-athletes through the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, backed up with 26 years experience as an athlete: “At the age of six, my friend wanted to go to the local judo club but didn’t want to go by himself so my mum kindly offered to send me along with him. Unfortunately my friend didn’t really like it much and quit after three weeks, but my brother and I really had the bug so we carried on. I think I was quite boisterous as a child, we lived out in the sticks and there wasn’t many other kids to play with, so it was a great way to let off steam.”
Despite his wealth of experience Matt has decided to retire after the Glasgow Commonwealth Games to fully focus on his coaching role, however his immediate focus is on approaching competitions such as the 2013 British Championships in Sheffield to improve his chances of selection for Team Scotland. He will also spend more time in the weight room, to increase weight and strength with the aim to taper down into Glasgow 2014, and of course eat the right food to make this possible: “Food is vital” he said. “I come from judo which is a weight management sport so if you don't make the weight you are disqualified from the tournament, so eating the right food at the right time is essential.”
It was therefore an ideal fit for Matt when he helped to launch the Glasgow 2014 Food Charter in November which aims to showcase Scotland as a land of food and drink with some of the best natural produce in the world. The Charter also outlines a commitment to the ethical, safe, and healthy-living standards for all food served across the Games.
Good luck to Matt and all the Scottish judokas competing at the British Championship on the 19th and 20th December.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattPurssey
Photo Credit: Getty Images