Ashley McKenzie claimed he had finally made top of the class after landing Commonwealth Games judo gold on Thursday night.
The Maida Vale fighter won an absorbing and sometimes feisty U60kg contest against India’s Navjot Chana by virtue of earning two less penalties than his Asian opponent in a fight where both men scored a Wazari apiece.
Now 25, he battled ADHD in school where he did not excel academically, only getting into the sport when he was thrown Judo-style after an argument over a Pokemon card.
However, a British Championship and a bronze at European level hinted at yesterday’s triumph which gave him the top grades school never did.
Consequently he will not be trading his sporting fame anytime soon.
He said: When I was younger I would never have got here. I never had the best school or great results at GCSE.
I didn’t even think I would have a job, but this is my job now and I wouldn’t swap this for GCSE’s or a good job and I’m one hell of an A star now.
The final was a cagey tactical battle in which Chana picked up three early ‘Shidos’ to move within one caution of disqualification.
However, the Indian moved ahead with a smart throw for Wazari, leaving the west Londoner and pre-tournament favourite under pressure.
With concentration having sometimes been considered his weak link this was now the acid test for McKenzie and he passed, truly earning his A*.
He struck back with a throw initially ruled as Ippon, but with McKenzie beginning to celebrate it was downgraded to Wazari – still enough to put him ahead because of the Indian’s penalty count.
The Briton’s sense of focus was severely tested when the re-start of the contest was delayed by a problem with the match clock an when the match did resume Chana appeared to shove McKenzie aggressively to the floor after the official had called matte (stop).
Chana escaped censure, but his too was something which may have fazed the former Celebrity Big Brother finalist in the past, but not on this day as he successfully ran down the clock to gold.
Reflecting on the incident afterwards McKenzie added: “I didn’t think that was allowed in Judo, but I’ve got a sport’s psychologist now and they have helped me with all that."
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