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Reality television star and Britain's judo bad boy tearfully declared he "wanted to go home" after his Olympic adventure in Tokyo ended after just four minutes.
Ashley McKenzie, the only male judoka on the British team in Japan, travelled halfway across the world only to be eliminated in the first round of the men's -60kg tournament by Azerbaijani Karamat Huseynov on the opening day.
Self-funded McKenzie, who has often stated he would be in prison if he had not found judo, has continually financed his Olympic dreams through reality TV appearances, making the final of Celebrity Big Brother in 2012 before appearing on the first series of Celebs on the Farm in 2018 and Celebrity Ex on the Beach in January 2020.
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Having finished 17th on his Olympic debut at London 2012 and then ninth in Rio four years later, the Commonwealth champion and two-time European bronze medallist had high hopes of making it third time lucky with a podium finish in Tokyo.
Instead, the sacrifices to get to Tokyo proved in vain, and a distraught McKenzie, who also had to take a time out after receiving a blow to the eye, was left in tears after his fight.
“At the moment, obviously I’m sad. I’ve put in a lot of work for this one tournament, there were loads of things that went wrong when I got over here and I just pushed them aside," he said.
“I just tried not to let them affect me, due to Covid stuff. I just feel a bit sorry for the people that have put so much energy into me – the arguments that I had at home, my mum and everyone that loves me.
“It just hurts to see that – they’ve probably woken up to watch me and I had one fight and it didn’t go the way I wanted it to. I just want to go home, that’s it.”
The 32-year-old has spoken in the past of his tough upbringing. As a baby, he underwent open heart surgery, and then struggled with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) from a young age. He was expelled 60 times from school and his mother, Susan, constantly feared he could "end up in a prison cell or dead".
It was aged 11 that McKenzie was exposed to judo after getting into a fight with a boy who stole his Pokemon card and joined Moberly Judo Club where he ended up befriending his assailant. Even when he progressed onto the British Judo set up he was banned a number of times due to behavioural issues. He chose to go self-funded and sought his own sponsorship, and won Commonwealth gold in 2014.
In the build-up to Tokyo, McKenzie, who has a three-year-old daughter, Lana-Rose, with French judoka, Automne Pavia, said "everything has to be right on the day for me to get gold" but was confident in his chances.
"I know if I perform to the best of my ability, I’m well capable of coming home with a gold," he said. "If I don’t then I could lose in round three, round four or round five. It’s really up and down in judo because you’re against someone else and they could have their worst day on your best day. It fluctuates."
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