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Sally Conway's Great Escape

23 Feb 2021 11:25

 JudoCrazy by Oon Yeoh    David Finch /

With an Olympic and World bronze, a European silver and seven IJF World Tour titles under her belt, Britain's Sally Conway has decided to call it a day. It's not clear why she decided to call it quits with just about half a year to go before the Olympic Games.

Not every top athlete knows when it's time to stop, and all too many tend to overstay, but it seems Conway felt this was the right time to do it: “I always said to myself ‘I will know when the times comes, and I am  ready to stop’ regardless of results and performances. I wanted to know and feel when the right time to stop was.”

Judo fans who have followed her career know her as a newaza specialist. She was especially lethal at juji-gatame which she could do on both sides. Normally juji-gatame specialists tend to stick to one side. Neil Adams, for example, always did his juji-gatame towards uke's left. But Conway could do it both right and left with equal facility.

She also had some powerful osaekomi turnovers, although even those often ended up as armlocks. But the newaza move that she will probably be most remembered for was the move she did in the 2016 Rio Olympics against triple World Champion Gevrise Emane of France in their preliminary round match.

Emane had thrown Conway with a drop sode-tsurikomi-goshi for yuko. With less than a minute-and-a-half left in the match, Conway did a desperate sumi-gaeshi that Emane quashed easily. The French champion then extracted her leg and proceed to pin Conway with yoko-shiho-gatame, one of the hardest pins to break out of.

What happened next was pure magic. Harry Houdini would have been proud of Conway's great escape. With a remarkable turn, Conway was able to climb on top and secure the hold for ippon, and ticket to an eventual Olympic bronze medal.

Sally didn't make it to the Olympic Games in 2021, due to the postponement of the 2020 Games. Conway retired in February 2021. 

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  • Gévrise Emane (FRA), Sally Conway (GBR) - 2016 Olympic Games day 5 Judo U90kg & U70kg (2016, BRA) - © David Finch,
  • Sally Conway (GBR) - 2016 Olympic Games day 5 Judo U90kg & U70kg (2016, BRA) - © David Finch,
  • Sally Conway (GBR) - 2016 Olympic Games day 5 Judo U90kg & U70kg (2016, BRA) - © David Finch,

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