McWatt Looks To Mount Comeback After ACL Tear
In 2015, Stuart McWatt proved that he was one of Scotland’s brightest judo prospects when at 18 year-old, he won a bronze medal in his first-ever senior ranking event, the European Open in Glasgow.
However, just a few weeks later during a routing training session, McWatt ruptured his ACL. The timing, he recalls, felt like it couldn’t be worse.
“It was really tough because I had been doing so well that year… So to be told that I needed an operation and that I was going to be out for eight or nine months was pretty devastating.”
“That was the first time that I’d had a major injury though so actually, I felt ok about it mentally because I knew I had a lot of things to look forward to at the end of the nine months.”
McWatt following aggressive rehab, returned towards the end of 2016. Then the unthinkable happened: just a month after returning to full training, he ruptured his other ACL. “At first, everybody was hopeful that I hadn’t actually done my ACL,” he said.
“I went for a scan and as soon as I was called into the room to speak to the consultant, I just knew what he was going to say. When he told me I had done my ACL again, I just couldn’t believe it.”
However, McWatt remained positive and the -81kg fighter admits that he never had a moment when he doubted that he would return to top-level judo. There were though, some tough days during the long slog that is rehab – and what made it all worse was that he knew exactly what was in front of him. “The first time I was out, there were quite a few people injured at the same time so I had some company when I was doing my rehab,” he said. “But the second time was much more testing –I think because I knew what was I going to have to go through.
“Physically, I knew I could get back but there were definitely days when I really lacked motivation. I had a lot of support during that time though, which helped a lot. I always knew I was going to come back though. But after my second one, I took a couple of months extra to come back because I knew I really needed to be fully fit.”
That extra couple of months did McWatt the world of good. In his first competition on his return to competitive action in September, he was part of the British team that took European Junior bronze while just last month, he finished a creditable fifth at the World Junior Championships, although the 20 year old admits that he was a touch disappointed he did not pick up any silverware.
THE past two years could not have been more testing for McWatt but despite his struggles, some major positives have come out of his injury-plagued spell and while he would never have wished to have suffered such bad luck, he believes that he is a much improved judoka in the aftermath. “I’m 100 percent certain that I’ve come back as a better athlete compare to before I got injured,” he said.
“When I was off, I did a lot of video analysis work and a lot of work on gripping too. I feel like I’m a much more rounded athletes now and mentally I feel like I’m better because I’ve been through so much.”
“I’m able to control my emotions much better now – in the past, I struggled with nerves but in my last few competitions, I’ve managed to control that much better. I feel like as an athlete, I am in a much better place now.”
McWatt continues his comeback as one of the 10-strong British team which will compete in the Tokyo Grand Slam. With Japan the home of judo, McWatt cannot wait to have his first experience of competing in the country.
“I slowly built my way back up and so to now be competing in one of the biggest events of the year is brilliant,” he said. “I’ve been to Japan before for training camps but to actually compete there will be fantastic. Others have been telling me that this is one of the best events of the year and I think there will be a huge crowd there so it will be a really good event.
“I guess that is a little bit nerve wracking but at the same time I am just coming into the senior ranks so there’s no pressure on me so I can just go out there, have some fun and try to do my best.”