One of the more peculiar things you notice about Chris Sherrington are his fingers.
Given that he stands tall at 6ft 5in and weighs in at a sturdy 20 stones of Royal Marines-honed bulk, you'd think there was enough of him to grab the attention. Yet, we sports writers are an inquisitive, eagle-eyed bunch. Unlike our own straight, manicured, perfectly formed digits – the kind that caress the computer keys with all the floating sensitivity of Richard Clayderman knocking out a Valentine's night medley on the piano – Sherrington's fingers are great, higgledy-piggledy slabs that resemble headstones in a vandalised cemetery.
"I've dislocated all of them, they're all well and truly knackered," said the 29-year-old. "My toes are dislocated too. My ankles are knackered as well, I'm getting problems with my knees, I've had my shoulders operated on, I've had a hernia repair job and I've had big problems with my back. I thought I was indestructible when I was a bit younger but it's taking its toll now."
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To the uninitiated, this seemingly endless list of aches and pains would make it sound as though Sherrington throws himself in front of passing vehicles for a living. Of course, to those in the know, the burly Englishman is one of Britain's foremost judo heavyweights and, due to the fact that he has lived north of the border for the past eight years, the charismatic commando from Wigan will represent Scotland at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.
He may be a gentle giant away from the mat – "I'm not the kind of guy who walks up and says hello, I'm the guy who walks up and gives you a big man hug" – but once entangled in this martial art, the Broxburn-based brute is a man possessed. Simply translated, the word judo means 'the gentle way' which, to the casual observer, may seem rather bemusing given the ferocity of the grappling, hurling, sweeping, pinning and smashing that goes on. A frenzied rumble, with great thundering thighs wrapped around waists and bulging arms coiled around necks, looks about as gentle as a cuddle with a bear that's just found out it's been condemned to a lifetime of celibacy.
In this type of fierce, close-quarters combat, however, Sherrington is in his element.
His association with judo runs deep, having dabbled in its old techniques as a youngster – "it was a chance for my brother and me to knock the c**p out of each other without breaking the furniture" – before taking it up again in the Marine corps. "That's why it was so big in the Marines," added Olympian Sherrington, who has been granted another two-year sports draft from his superiors to pursue his assault on a Glasgow gold. "It was honourable, it taught you respect and discipline. I came back from Iraq and found it gave me the release I needed for the stress because of how hard a sport it is. There is no easy way in judo. And in the Marines it's the same. There is no easy way. If you have to take that ridge, you have to take it. It will be blood, sweat and tears all the way."
And there's been plenty of that along the way. "I got flattened for a year and a half when I first went abroad," he reflected. "I slowly got better but it was a horrible process – not confidence inspiring. I'd come back to the UK and decimate everyone but I'd go abroad and get smashed. In the Marines they build you into this superhuman. They changed me from a young, fat kid who tried hard into a tool of distinction as it were and they teach you that you'll never fail. But here I was losing repeatedly to these guys."
Sherrington was a quick learner, though. Having accelerated through the ranks to British No.1, he soon got to grips with his rivals on the international stage. At the end of 2011, he won World Cup gold in Samoa, a victory that propelled him to an Olympic debut in the summer.
He certainly made his considerable presence felt, winning his first bout against the Australian Jake Andrewarth in just 24, explosive seconds and then taking Russia's triple world champion, Alexander Mikhaylin, to a golden score before being eliminated. Glasgow in two years' time is now the next target on the horizon and the hard work is unrelenting as he strives to repay the faith, finance and facilities that the sporting authorities in his adopted country have invested in him. Based at JudoScotland's HQ inside the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena at Ratho, Sherrington has a proper centre where he can develop. Compared to the ramshackle garages and rundown churches that he used to train in with his coach, Billy Cusack of the Edinburgh Club, this new base is like Graceland.
"At that church, we had to break the ice before we went on the mat," he said with a smile. "This place has heating and proper windows. The Scottish Institute of Sport has given me this; they've repaired my injuries and put the time in. The English Institute gave me nothing, not a thing. Scotland is it for me. I married a Scottish girl and I intend to live out my days here. I'm honoured to fight for Scotland and there's only one medal I'm interested in."
If Sherrington gets to clasp his battered fingers round a gold in 2014, the punishment will have been worth it.