A LITTLE over three years ago, Kimberley Renicks was one of the most celebrated figures in Scottish sport.

The judoka from Bellshill had just become the first Scottish athlete to win gold at Glasgow 2014 and when her older sister Louise emulated her feat less than an hour later, the sisters’ success became one of the stories of the Games.

How quickly things can change in the world of elite sport though. Recent times have seen Renicks plagued by injury and as a result, she no longer receives any funding and has lost her place in the Sportscotland Institute of which provides all manner of support to Scottish athletes.

She was 26 when she won gold at the Commonwealth Games but now, as she edges towards 30, she believes that those who hold the purse strings feel that she is too old to provide backing to, despite the fact that a number of judo medallists at Glasgow 2014 were in their thirties, including her sister.

Knowing that people have lost belief in her has been, admits Renicks, extremely tough to take.

“It’s heart-breaking to think that people don’t believe in me,” she said. “I feel like I’ve still got a lot in me to give but it makes you doubt yourself. The younger age-group are now coming through and I think they’re trying to develop players for the next Olympic cycle and the next Commonwealth Games.

“At the next Commonwealth Games, I’ll still only be 34 but I think that for girls, they see that as being the older generation and they want to concentrate on the younger generation.”

Renicks’ shoulder injuries also caused her to miss out on possible selection for Rio 2016, and that was the point when she seriously considered retirement.

After much reflection though, and numerous chats with her sister, she decided to give things one last go. On recovering from her shoulder operations, Renicks made the decision to relocate to a new training group in Camberley just outside of London and having returned to elite competition at the start of the year, things are going well, although there have been ups and down as she continues to battle to get back to her best.

“This year has been pretty tough – in my competitions, I was getting into winning positions but I just wasn’t getting the wins,” she said. “I feel like this year has mainly about building myself back up and getting back to my best form. It’s definitely getting there though.”

Renicks has a new coach south of the border but she is also coached by her sister Louise, who took over as her younger sibling’s trainer not long after the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

The sisters spent the majority of their judo careers training and competing alongside each other and Renicks admits that viewing Louise as her coach rather than her older sister took a little getting used to.

“It’s been a little strange going from being players to being coach and athlete because she’s a lot stricter on me now,” she laughs. “The first couple of competitions where she was coaching me, it was hard because when I lost, Louise was in coaching mode and was giving me a lecture whereas I wanted sister mode and an arm round me.

“But I know that I have to take that coaching side of her before she can turn into my sister because that’s her job now, she’s my coach. I need to take that harsh criticism because that’s what you need from a coach.”

Renicks remains as motivated as ever and she admits that physically, she feels stronger than she ever has. Judo is not included in the programme for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in April but Renicks already has her sights set on repeating her gold-medal winning performance in 2022, as well as aiming for an Olympic debut in 2020.

The next few weeks are vitally important for Renicks, with a competition in the Netherlands quickly followed by the British trials at the start of December.

She is confident in her ability but one challenge remains – the lack of finance behind her.

Elite sport does not come cheap and Renicks admits that it is frustrating that she has to take that into her decision as to whether to continue to chase her dreams.

“If I had the finance behind me, I’d be telling everyone that I’d be keeping going for the next six years and I’d be aiming for the next Olympics and the next Commonwealths,” she said. “I still love the sport and while things have gone well this year, unfortunately I didn’t have the money to do all the competitions I’d have liked.

“So I’m going to give it another six months to see how my results go and then that will be the big decision time for me. I just need somebody to believe in me and to back me.”