SKILL: The 21-year-old Ashley McKenzie
OLYMPIC JUDO hopeful Ashley McKenzie credits the sport for helping him to control his once bad temper and for negating the effects that his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) causes.
The 21-year-old judoka’s fiery disposition previously saw McKenzie turfed out of training squads but aiming for Olympic glory has helped him to focus and relax.
The European under-23 lightweight gold medallist from Willesden, north west London, told the Voice of Sport:
“My main goal is London 2012 and I’ve benefited from knowing that to get to 2012 I just needed to calm down.
“Judo is a discipline sport anyway so you’ve got to be disciplined to get into it. I think knowing that I wanted to do a combat sport I’ve just calmed down with my behavioural problems and improving my life in general.”
Iconic champions such as Earvin ‘Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Michael Phelps were all diagnosed with ADHD and, as McKenzie explains, sport has contributed in reducing the impact of ADHD.
“I think judo put me on the fast track to grow out of it,” said McKenzie.
“I’ve got to go away on my own, deal with money situations, deal with interviews but having that temperament is not going to put me on the right track. I think I’ve grown out of the ADHD and judo is a big part of it.
“As I’ve been going away a lot of people have been willing to help me with it. Judo’s helped me in all different kind of angles – not just the behavioural side but life skills and everything in general. It’s a really intense sport so you can’t be angry all the time.”
Judo has been an Olympic sport since the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, and the opportunity to compete at the highest level means that McKenzie - who won World Cup gold in February - trains five times a week, two to three times a day.
“I feel privileged training with the Great Britain team but I’ve kind of realised where I am now and where I can go in life so I try to forget about where I am and just train my hardest.
“I kind of put training with the best to one side and I just want to be the best.”
And as for how much it would mean to participate in next year’s Games, McKenzie added:
“I’ve been down and gone through hard times and getting a letter through my door saying I got selected; it would probably make me cry.”