JUDO returns to the Commonwealth Games programme this summer and Andy Burns could be forgiven for feeling somewhat conflicted.

The 36 year-old was part of the Team Scotland medal rush on home soil in 2014, claiming a middleweight bronze on a memorable few days for the sport in Glasgow.

Since then, however, he has spent six years working with the Welsh Judo Association, initially in strength and conditioning and then later on in performance support and coaching.

He took a break from the sport in 2020 but has returned to coaching again recently in his current domicile of Bath, back on the mat working primarily with English judoka.

The Glaswegian naturally hopes what is expected to be a youthful Scotland team will be among the medals again in Birmingham this summer, while admitting he would also like to see the Welsh and English athletes he has worked with to also go well.

In general, however, Burns is just glad to see judo back in the Games after not being included in the Gold Coast programme in 2018 and hopes another home crowd will help replicate the atmosphere of Glasgow eight years ago.

“It’s going to be an exciting year for judo with the Commonwealth Games to look forward to in the summer,” he said.

“I probably didn’t properly celebrate after getting my bronze in 2014 as two days later I was off to an Olympic qualifier in Miami. But when I look back now, that was a brilliant time in Glasgow.  

“I could possibly have tried to go for the team again this year but at 36 it would be a hard push and I didn’t want to block a young Scottish judoka from getting that multi-games experience.

“So I’m just excited to watch it as a spectator. And having trained in and competed for Scotland, coached the Welsh team but live in England, I’m really interested to see how the British judoka get on.

“I think it’s going to be a really competitive tournament. The word on the ground is the Canadians are sending over a pretty strong team so it won’t be plain sailing for the home nations. But I’d like to see them deliver, especially with it being in Birmingham and I’m sure – Covid permitting – it will be a brilliant atmosphere like we saw in Glasgow eight years ago.

“It’s a young squad from that I understand of the Scottish team so it will be a great experience for them regardless and I hope they make the most of it.”

HeraldScotland:

Burns retired from elite-level judo in 2016 after injuries finally ended his hope of competing at the Olympics but has remained working in sport.

The former British champion has diversified from judo over the last few years, initially taking on a post with the English Institute of Sport (EIS) as a performance support manager in their archery programme.

He has now opened 2022 by embarking on a new challenge, joining UK Sport as a coaching advisor across a number of different disciplines.

“Coaching was what I got into when I first retired,” he added. “And then the opportunity came to join the EIS to help with all things around talent development and I thought it would be good to step outside my judo bubble.

“Most people stay in the same sport their whole lives but it had started to feel too similar to being an athlete for me, living on the road and being away at competitions most weekends. It never really felt like I’d moved away.

“So, I wanted to learn how other sports operate. One common problem I discovered was around the development of future coaches who could step into a world-class programme. And that’s what has led into this latest opportunity with UK Sport.

“I’m going to be supporting coaches right through the pathway, from those going to the Olympics in Paris in two years to those just setting out on their journey.

“It’s about digging into what they’re trying with their athletes, what is working for them and why. But it’s certainly not about me going in and telling them how to do their jobs better!

“Coaching is probably our biggest competitive advantage in the UK but other nations are catching up. So it’s about how we maintain that advantage to stay out in front.

“I’m back doing some coaching again too. I’ve accepted a small contract – 35 to 38 days a year – to coach the senior British team at competitions and camps so it’s good being back out on the mat again to support that programme.

“And it also means I can better understand other coaches and what they’re going through when I’m living that life myself.”