Judo star McKenzie aiming for top
July 27, 2012 13:48 pm
British Judo fighter Ashley McKenzie hopes a journey which started scrapping in the streets over Pokemon cards can end with Olympic success on the opening day of London 2012 on Saturday.
McKenzie, 23, was the subject of a no-holes-barred TV documentary, 'The Bad Boy Olympian', which charted his battle to win selection for Team GB.
It will, though, be a tough Olympic baptism for the Londoner at ExCeL in the under-60kgs extra-lightweights against Japan's Hiroaki Hiraoka, silver medallist at last summer's World Championships and the second seed.
However, McKenzie, the European Under-23 champion in 2010, is determined to leave a positive mark on his hometown Games.
"Being the first Team GB fighter up means I have to set the pace and hopefully I can, but I will have a tough first fight against Japan," McKenzie told Press Association Sport.
"I want to be the best, I have worked hard to be here and am determined to do the business on the day."
McKenzie found his way into the sport after being involved in a tussle as an 11-year-old, when he was furious after being "flipped" by a judo move.
It has not always been an easy path to the rank of elite fighters for Willesden judoka, who has endured more than his fair share of disciplinary problems before eventually landing a coveted spot in the 14-strong British Olympic squad, having won gold at the 2011 GB World Cup event in Liverpool.
"Everyone has their own journey, and maybe people know mine more because of the TV programme," he reflected. "I am hungry for success and am determined to do it, not only for myself, but for my family to show people what you can do, no matter where you come from."
Hiraoka will be out to ensure Japan has a place on the Olympic podium again after Judo's birthnation failed to medal at under-60kgs in Beijing four years ago, while top seed Rishod Sobirov of Uzbekistan is aiming to add Olympic gold to his two successive world titles.
Team GB will have fighters in all weight categories for both men and women under host nation places for London 2012.
Dartford judoka Kelly Edwards, 23, has been handed a bye into the second round, where she will be up against either top seed Tomoko Fukumi of Japan or Spaniard Oiana Blanco.
Fukumi won silver at both the 2010 and 2011 World Championships and is expected to challenge for Olympic gold in London.
Romania's Alina Dumitru will defend her title from the Beijing Games. The 29-year-old will be hoping to go out on a high after announcing earlier this year that she plans to retire after London.
World number one and world champion Haruna Asami from Japan failed to qualify at the national championships.
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