A judo coach went the extra mile for his club while battling back from a horrendous knee injury.
Fourth dan black belt Gordon McCathie, of Ultimate Judo, has been nominated for the inspiration prize at Aberdeen’s Sports Awards.
McCathie, 37, dislocated his right knee in training two years ago, in the culmination of years of painful issues with both joints and reduced mobility.
The incident left his competitive career in tatters and gave him a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), as well as other ligament damage and a torn meniscus.
In May last year an operation saw his damaged ACL replaced.
He said: “It was just an accident. The right knee has given me jip for years, but this blew it out.
“It made a big popping noise. I’d already undergone physio on it.
“The ACL has been stretched and damaged before, but never ruptured. In some sports you’ll get away with it, but never judo – it’s too physical.
“Judo’s a safe sport, it’s designed to be, but the longer you train and the more often you train accidents can happen.”
“In the lead-up to the surgery I was down in the dumps. I’ve not got a big staff and I was worried about the club – I make my income through coaching as well and have a family.
“The surgery was really painful, coming out of it you can’t put weight on your leg or do anything with it.
“It was suggested I took six months off coaching.”
McCathie wasn’t able to take a step back and recover, and was back in the dojo one week after his knee surgery to show Ultimate Judo’s kids true fighting spirit.
As Ultimate Judo’s only full-time coach he continued to run training sessions for his students on crutches, as well as fun days, competitions and a masterclass with All Japan judo champion Shinjiro Sasaki.
Of his frame of mind at the time, he said: “After surgery you’re better, you’re in rehab.
“You just have to grin and bear it and not be a victim to it. I wasn’t going to play the ‘I’m not going to class because I’ve hurt my leg’ card.
“I’d just sit or stand at the side and coach. Mentally it was good.”
Last October, despite still being in the midst of recovery, McCathie took his students to Japan to train, walking 13 miles a day for almost two weeks to get to the team’s activities and sessions.
The coach’s selflessness and strong will was epitomised by the kids’ obliviousness to his condition – despite having to retire to his bedroom each night of the trip with painful swelling to his knee.
Most difficult for McCathie, who has recently returned to training, was the loss of an opportunity to train with his idol Toshihiko Koga, although he was able to meet the 1992 Olympic gold medallist.
McCathie, still managing daily pain in his knee, said: “I had to explain to him I’d done my ACL, and he’s standing saying ‘I done mine a month before I won the Olympics’.
Ultimate Judo has five clubs in the north-east with around 350 students, and McCathie continues to promote the sport through schools and to help kids with additional needs.
The 2018 Aberdeen’s Sport Awards, now in their 25th year, will be held at Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre on October 4.
Nominations can be made at www.sportaberdeen.co.uk/nominate-now