With Judo set to return to the Commonwealth Games stage at Birmingham 2022 for the first time since the record-breaking success of Glasgow 2014, Scotland’s rising stars of the sport are hard at work in hope of emulating their home Games heroes.
One athlete with Birmingham firmly in his sights is 24 year old Aiden Moffat, making his mark in 2019 with gold at the Commonwealth Judo Championships in Walsall, just eight miles from the home of the 2022 Games. He took victory in the 73kg event, defeating India’s Nilesh Balhara, the 2018 gold medallist at 66kg, in the final.
“Fighting at an event like the Commonwealth Judo Championships was the highlight of my year,” said Aiden. “I love to represent Scotland and to go to a competition of that standard, with opposition of that level and come away with a gold standard performance, it makes all the training five days a week worthwhile.
“To stand on the top of the podium with our flag raised, singing our national anthem was just a surreal moment! I felt a real sense of pride and achievement. Also receiving the exposure and experience at that level will hopefully gear me up in the right direction towards Birmingham 2022.”
Since October last year, Aiden has been one of 18 rising stars across 11 different sports receiving the Team Scotland Youth Trust’s PHM Athlete Award, which supports athletes under the age of 26 in reaching their sporting ambitions. With a long commute each day to attend training sessions at Judo Scotland’s National Training Centre in Edinburgh, he says the support he has received has made a big difference.
“I have been using the funding I’ve received to pay for my commute to training from Perth to Edinburgh five days a week and to help with competitions and camps abroad which enable me to get the best level of training and exposure to elite level competition.
“Financially it has taken a huge amount of stress and worry off my day to day life. I don’t have to worry about having enough money to be able to afford my commute, meaning that I don’t miss any valuable training sessions. It’s allowing me to get better and keep improving, and it feels like someone is helping me along my journey to take another step up the ladder towards success.”
As the miles of round trips build up, his dedication is paying off. A competitor for Team GB at the European Youth Olympic Festival in 2011 and European Cup medallist at Cadet and Junior level, Aiden is now building on that early promise in the senior ranks. He recorded his best performance as a senior with 9th place at the European Cup in Malaga last month, as well as that gold medal win at the Commonwealth Championships. With Birmingham 2022 on the horizon and Scottish judokas’ past successes to inspire him, he’s determined to push on to the next level.
“Over the next year my goal is to maintain my position as number one in Scotland in my weight category and try to take the number one ranking position for Great Britain. I’d also like to put in some successful performances internationally.
“Birmingham 2022 is a huge opportunity for us to maintain our legacy and record as a stronghold for Scotland at the Commonwealth Games and to inspire our high performing judo athletes to continue medalling for Scotland. My dream would be to attend the Olympic Games and to have finished my career with a Commonwealth Games title to my name.”