Londoner McKenzie on defying the odds



Londoner McKenzie on defying the odds

17 July 2016 / 10:51

Ashley McKenzie is a serial fighter.

He fights off the mat and he fights on the mat.

“I am arguing all day, until you tell me I am right,” he says.

“I am a fighter, I come from London, I've always been brought up to be.”

Click here to find out more about Ashley McKenzie

Ashley McKenzie is a Commonwealth judo Champion and European bronze medallist in the -60kg category, this we know.

Ashley McKenzie has ADHD, this we also know.

Newspapers were full of articles on the ‘bad boy Olympian’ at London 2012 and he even appeared on Celebrity Big Brother just months after competing at his first Olympic Games.

McKenzie was excluded from school 60 times as a child but is proud to have overcome life’s challenges and be named on a second Team GB squad, this time heading to Rio in search of gold.

While the ADHD will never go away, now, less than a month from his second Olympic Games, having found a training environment at Camberley Judo Club that can nurture his undoubted talents, the bad boy reputation has disappeared and the 26-year-old is looking at ways to help those in a similar situation to the one he found himself in as an 11-year-old boy with no way to channel his energy.

“You wouldn't normally put money on an 11-year-old kid who is getting excluded from school 60 times in one year, to be a two-time Olympian, so I think I've done very well for myself,” said the British Champion.

“It feels good, going to London and now Rio.

“In London it was more than a dream to me, I never thought I was going to make it, it was quite a hard fight going through the years of adapting to being a senior.

“I was banned quite a lot of times, so to come through that and go to Rio without any troubles in terms of getting myself there and my behaviour, doing everything right, I couldn't ask for more.

“I’m in the right place and it's a good time for me now.

“I'm at Camberley Judo Club with my coach Luke Preston and I could not ask for more, he understands me, I understand him, we do technique work together, we do strength and conditioning work together and everything is going well.

“I have ADHD, I do not shy away from it, it is hard sometimes, but my support team around me and the people who work with me, my judo club, my family – with all that help, I've made it to two Olympics.”

Talk to McKenzie and his growth in recent years is evident.

He is already planning on running judo masterclasses after the Rio Games and hopes to forge a connection with Somerset-based Sky College for children with special educational needs.

McKenzie knows his past, and acknowledges it, but is keen to use his tales to teach the next generation of tearaway teens that life is what you make of it, not what it deals you.

“I am more than open to do talks and show my experience, I am real person, what you see is what you get, I won't lie about my stories,” added the 26-year-old.

“Some of them aren't great, I didn't do great in school, I was quite bad, I got into fights, I threw people but that is what I did.

“Look where I am now though, I think that using something like ADHD as an excuse for not getting where you want to be is terrible.

“Use it to your advantage, when all the kids have gone then I was still the last one doing my training.

“I'm the first one in and the last one to go and I'm still excited afterwards when I go home.

“Use it to your advantage, that is the best advice I can give to someone with that kind of behavioural problem.”

Back on the mat, lying on the floor in the British Judo Centre of Excellence dojo, get McKenzie looking ahead to Rio and his eyes light up.

At London 2012 he was out of the competition as soon as he had entered it, losing his opening encounter with Japan’s Hiroaki Hiraoka.

But McKenzie’s fighting instinct is evident, and when he expands on his initial thoughts of growing up in London, it is clear that the once disruptive instinct is now a driving force in his quest for a medal in Rio.

“I am a fighter, I come from London, I've always been brought up to be so I will go to Rio and do my best, and see what that delivers, I'm hoping it will be a medal,” he adds.

“For me, London was really important to do. I do not think I am at my peak at the moment, but if I perform at my best I know I can get a medal or win it.

“I think I've got a lot more to improve on, I'm not a liar, I'm not going to say I'm at my greatest yet, I'm not, I know I'm not, I know I can get 20 times better.

“I want to go ahead to Tokyo as well, so going into Rio with the experience from London, it will put me one step ahead.

“I've had the experience, the weighing in, the media, I am ready.”

Sportsbeat 2016