THE potential storyline is almost too perfect. Kimberley Renicks, Scotland’s first gold medallist at Glasgow 2014, has been handed a late call-up to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham where she will fight in the weight category where sister, Louise, is the current champion.

At 34, Renicks admits this will be her last Games appearance and winning her second gold – keeping the -52kg title in the family in the process – would be the ideal way to bow out at this level. If she achieves it they could probably start writing the film script right away.

Sporting feelgood movies tend to be peppered with tales of the protagonist bouncing back from adversity and Renicks has plenty of those in her locker, too. Injuries and financial constraints have blighted her progress since she sparked a gold rush by winning on the mat inside
the SECC on the opening day of a memorable Games in Glasgow.

With judo not in the programme for Gold Coast four years ago, it has been a long wait for another moment like that. Renicks now works as a residential support worker with children, something that evidently gives her a lot of satisfaction in what she sees as her long-term career path. For now, however, it is all about judo and making the most of this late and unexpected opportunity after an injury to Hannah Wood created a vacancy in the team.

“It’s been a bit of a journey from being a reserve initially to then getting selected and it’s just about focusing on that now,” she says. “You never want to see someone getting injured but I knew that was the only way I was going to get in. I was gutted not to be picked originally and I thought my chance was gone if I’m honest.

“But I had kept working with the team as a training partner and kept my fitness up as you never know what could happen in sport. I was coming down to watch anyway but now the whole family will be there, too. In Glasgow I didn’t have any nieces and nephews and this time there will hopefully be four little ones cheering me on.

“I knew this was going to be my last chance as the next Games in four years’ time is too far away. With judo not included in 2018 I had always wanted to do a second one so I’ve been thinking about this for a long time.

“During lockdown I had to go into a full-time job as a carer as we were not paid athletes and that job took over my life for a few years. Then it was about getting fit to come back again to compete at a heavier weight. It’s been tough with self-funding for certain events as well but I just have to prove now that it was all worth the sacrifice.”

Renicks’ bond with her sister is unshakeable. Back in 2014, when Louise landed gold around an hour after Kimberley, the pair seemed happier for each other than they were for themselves. Louise, now 39, retired from competition a few years ago and now Kimberley is stepping up from her usual 48kg category with the chance to emulate Louise’s achievements eight years on.

“In the first couple of events in the weight above it was tough,” she adds. “The girls felt strong and they’re taller than I’m used to. But then I remembered how strong I am as an athlete as well and to keep faith in myself. I’m not going to lie – there are definitely more nerves this time. But I’d love to take that title off my sister! She’s been the reigning champion for eight years and it would be great to get a second gold at a different weight.”

Renicks would likely still get asked for ID down her local off-licence given her deceptively youthful appearance but is now one of the veterans of an inexperienced judo team, the majority of whom are competing at their first Games. A recent victor at the Winterthur Senior European Cup, you sense the Coatbridge fighter would very much like to prove there is life in this old dog yet.

“You do wonder at times if you can still do it as an older athlete,” she admits. “These girls are in their twenties are coming up and can do full-time training. But you just have to believe in yourself. And showing other people that you’re not over the hill is also part of the motivation. My sister could do it when she was older so why not me? I still feel young and in good shape and I’d love to do well again on the big stage.

“I want to come away with a medal. And I think I could win it if I fought like in 2014. I still have that same drive within me so let’s see what happens. Glasgow’s my career highlight so far but another gold this time might just overtake it.”