WHEN Tom Reed takes his first steps on to the Commonwealth Games mat in Glasgow tomorrow, he will have an extra spring in his step as he looks to put on a show for his nearest and dearest.
Although an experienced international, Reed has rarely been handed the chance to compete at the highest level in front of parents Dave and Julie, but that is all set to change when the Wiltshire star fights for England in the U81kg category at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) Precinct.
Reed, who claimed his first IJF (International Judo Federation) World Tour win at last year’s Miami Grand Prix, missed out on a place in the Great Britain team for the London 2012 Olympics but says that the Commonwealths nevertheless hold a special place in his heart.
“The Olympics in London were something that myself and my family were looking forward to ever since they were announced but when I missed out, my parents were just as disappointed as I was,” said Reed.
“I don’t think that this makes up for the Olympics – nothing ever could – but it’s still a massive tournament for me and it’s great that my parents will be there.
“I’m always competing abroad and it’s been such a long time since they’ve had the chance to watch me, so I’m looking forward to them being there.
“Judo isn’t a core sport at the Commonwealths and the last time it was there was in 2002, when I was 16. I remember watching it on television and it was one of those moments that was quite inspirational for me because you don’t usually get to see judo on television. Things have come full circle now.”
Devizes Budo Club member Reed, who has trained with Team Bath since 2002, when the Commonwealth Games in Manchester sparked a fire in his belly, is currently placed 45th in the IJF world rankings but has no qualms about declaring himself one of the favourites for the U81kg gold medal.
With Scottish Olympian Euan Burton now playing his trade in the 100kg category, England’s Reed is delighted that he won’t have to face up to a hostile home crowd in his weight class.
Handed a bye in the last 32 round, Reed will face either Cameroon’s Eric Jean Omgba Fouda or India’s Vikender Vikender Singh in the last 16.
He said: “I’m feeling good and it’s all going to be about how I perform on the day.
“I’m going there to win it because I think I’m one of the best in the class but nothing is ever a certainty because judo is just so hard to predict. I think I’ll have to watch out for the Canadians and the African players can also throw up a few surprises and be dangerous.
“It’s going to be weird coming up against people you’re used to competing with for Great Britain but I’m lucky that there aren’t any Scots in my category.
“I know it’s almost like a home Games for us but I think the atmosphere will be completely different when it’s England vs Scotland.
“It’s a knockout competition and it’s all going to be over in one day so I just want to make sure that I’ve got no regrets. Hopefully I can do well and then relax and enjoy taking in the experience of the Commonwealth Games for another week after that.”
FOLLOW REED'S PROGRESS IN THE U81 KGS COMPETITION AT GAZETTEANDHERALD.CO.UK/SPORT TOMORROW AND READ ALL THE REACTION AT THE WEBSITE AND IN NEXT WEEK'S GAZETTE & HERALD