McKenzie eyeing Commonwealth redemption after Tokyo disappointment

·3-min read
Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Judo - Men's 60kg - Last 32 - Nippon Budokan - Tokyo, Japan - July 24, 2021. Ashley McKenzie of Britain reacts during a match REUTERS/Hannah Mckay (REUTERS)

Ashley McKenzie doesn’t lack confidence and backs himself to rebound from Olympic disappointment at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, writes Tum Balogun.

The 33-year-old Walsall-based star suffered heartbreak in Tokyo last year as he crashed out of the opening round of the tournament.

It has fuelled the 2014 Commonwealth champion to prove his doubters wrong and finally set the record straight.

“If I'm being honest with you I’m very excited,” he said. “I think this is one of my opportunities just to show I’ve still got it, it’s so hard the career I’ve had.

“There’s been so many ups and downs so I think this is an opportunity for me to fight the best I can from this scenario that I have.

“For me, I’ve wanted this opportunity for a long time so for me to get the games now and finally have that [chance], I just can’t wait to have a scrap if I’m being honest with you.

“I can’t wait to fight.”

McKenzie, first introduced to judo after an altercation on the school playground over some Pokémon cards, has been at the forefront of the sport for over a decade.

With the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games set to inspire people and communities across the country this summer, McKenzie hopes sharing his story will give others motivation to get involved in sport and turn their dreams into reality

He has represented Team GB at three Olympics, multiple World and European Championships as well as won gold in Glasgow in 2014.

McKenzie is keen to highlight the vital support he has always enjoyed from his hometown club, Camberley Judo.

That support was sorely missed in Tokyo and he hopes his strongest backers will make themselves heard in Birmingham this summer.

He said: “I’ve never not had my Camberley Judo Club, I’ve never not had my sponsors, the ones that look after me.

“I’ve never not had people in place who have been there for me.

“I reckon I’ve got over fifty people [coming to Birmingham 2022]. I’ve got loads of people that have bought tickets already and loads of people asking, ‘how do I get tickets?’.

“I’ve got Welsh people coming, English, London, Hatfield, Welling, it’s just mad. I’ve got so much support coming so I can’t wait.”

This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, will comprise of over 400 athletes, and having secured his place on the squad, McKenzie is looking to capitalise on the once in a lifetime opportunity for medal success in his home country.

McKenzie is a reality TV veteran having appeared on the 2012 edition of Celebrity Big Brother and the first series of Ex on the Beach.

And despite fierce competition from other nations, McKenzie sees his biggest threat coming from a team-mate.

“I’ll get into the finals,” he added assertively.

“But they’ll be a tough guy called Sam Hall, a young boy that’s coming up who’s always been number one or two with me.

“After the Olympics I stopped doing judo for quite a long time but he’s still done tournaments, so he’s gone up while I’ve just not competed loads.

“I think you’ve got to back yourself in the sense that once you're in a fighting sport, it’s just you against them.

“One of us is coming off losing and I don’t think I’m overly cocky, but I generally think I’m confident enough to do what I need to when I need to do it.

“Don’t get me wrong, I lose all the time, I win sometimes, I’m in a fighting sport.

“So we’ll see what happens on the day and let the best man win.”

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