From reality TV to the third Olympics in a row, judoka Ashley McKenzie’s journey has always been unconventional – and that’s how he likes it.
The 31-year-old from Camberley was selected among six judokas to represent the GB team at Tokyo 2020, after making his Olympic debut in London 2012 and competing again in Rio 2016.
In fact, McKenzie has often stated that he would be in jail if he hadn’t found the sport, which kept him on track despite his struggles with ADHD from a young age.
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And having largely self-financed through reality TV appearances, the chance to represent his country again, in the birthplace of judo, means more to McKenzie than most.
“Judo for me has changed my whole life. When I was a kid I had ADHD, I was excluded from all schools, I would fight and when I started judo I was about 11 years old. “, did he declare.
âI was in a special school right away, so for me to go to judo and have this thing in my life where my mom would like me to come home and the medal kept me in school.
âI’ve always been honest with anyone who asked me this question, if I didn’t have judo I would probably be in jail, so going to the Olympics in Japan is really special.
“This is where Judo was created and for me it’s more special than anyone else because it got me out of trouble and I wouldn’t be where I am or who I am without. judo.
“To finally know that the Games are definitely taking place and that it is in Japan where judo was created, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
McKenzie made the finale of Celebrity Big Brother in 2012 before appearing in the first series of Celebs on the Farm in 2018 and Celebrity Ex on the Beach in January 2020.
And the -60kg fighter insists he wouldn’t change his approach to reality TV, explaining that the money he earned from the shows allowed him to compete.
“It’s definitely not like Ex On the Beach, there won’t be any ex coming in, and no fans either, so for me it’s basically me against another man and pretty much beat, âhe said.
âIt was difficult to get to the Games, but now that the Games are here, it is positive and I am grateful because there are not a lot of people who can leave the country and be able to compete.
âI think for me I kind of needed that stuff. I’m a self-funded athlete, which means I support myself in all competitions, I’m not a lottery funded athlete.
âThey don’t pay for me to go on a trip, I pay for myself and doing these shows really helped me. I got money to do these shows and off to my judo.
“I won’t hesitate to say that I’m a self-funded athlete either, because I think it’s really important that everyone knows that. I think these shows were really important during my qualifying period.”
Commonwealth champion and two-time European Championship bronze medalist McKenzie is hoping it’s a case of charm for the third time when he steps onto the mat in Japan.
But while he has admitted that making predictions in judo is a fool’s game, he thinks there is no reason for him to downplay expectations as long as he brings his A-game to Tokyo.
“Everything has to be right on the day for me to get the gold. If I get a medal I’ll be on the moon but the thing is with me, I beat every one of the best fighters,” McKenzie added. , whose Olympic exploits will be broadcast live on Eurosport and discovery +.
âIf everything goes on the right day it could be a gold medal, but I also lost to the best. I know that if I play to the best of my ability, I am quite capable of making it home. house with a gold medal.
âIf I don’t, I could lose in the third round, fourth or fifth round. It’s really ups and downs in judo because you’re up against someone else and they might have their worst day on your best day.
“It really fluctuates in judo. It’s not one of them where if I run that time I really know I have a medal because nobody else is running that time. , I’m literally trying to catch someone.
“I try to throw them on the ground and they try to do the reverse, but I expect a medal to be amazing. If I get a gold medal, that would be madness.”
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