Ashley McKenzie recorded the biggest result of his career winning a bronze medal for Great Britain in the first day of the 2013 European Championships in Budapest.
London’s McKenzie, 23, competing in his first major championships since London 2012, defeated Austrian Legend Ludwig Paischer in the bronze medal contest putting in a comprehensive display against the former Olympic and World silver medallist and double European Champion.
After a first round bye, -60kg athlete McKenzie opened his European account with an ippon victory over Estonia’s Elnur Alijev, fighting back from being a waza-ari down.
This victory set up a meeting with Artiom Arshansky of Israel and McKenzie wasted no time in stamping his authority on the contest, throwing the youngster for waza-ari early in the contest before finishing the duel with a second waza-ari throw for ippon inside a minute and a half to progress to the semi-final.
2012 European bronze medallist Amiran Papinashvili was McKenzie’s opponent in what proved to be a very tight semi-final. The Georgian took the upper hand with a yuko midway through the contest before adding a further score as the GB star pushed for a way back into the fight. McKenzie battled until the end, but a narrow defeat by two yukos to the eventual -60kg champion left him with the chance to fight for bronze.
The bronze final was a battle of youth versus experience with McKenzie facing Ludwig Paischer, one of the most decorated athletes in the weight category. Despite the Austrian having seven European, two world and one Olympic medals to his name, McKenzie stayed on top throughout the contest, twice catching Paischer to throw him for yuko on his way to securing the bronze medal.
Following the victory, McKenzie said: “It feels amazing to win a bronze here today at the Europeans in Budapest and it also means I’m on course to make it to the (IJF) Masters at the end of May.
“A special thanks goes to Darren (Warner) who coached me today in his last competition for Great Britain and also to the coaches and everybody back at Camberley Judo Club.”
GB coach Darren Warner commented: “I’m delighted for Ashley today and his coach Luke Preston.
“I felt that Ashley showed a lot of maturity, especially in his first fight when he went down a score.
“His semi-final was close and maybe on a different day he would be European Champion but in the end beating a world and Olympic medallist for the bronze is just reward for all his hard work.”
Day one of the championships also saw a further five British Judo athletes in action, including 19-year-old London debutant Nekoda Davis, who put in a mature display at -57kg beating European junior bronze medallist Emma Pettersson Barkeling of Sweden by ippon before losing to Serbia’s Jovana Rogic. Connie Ramsay lost out to Bulgaria’s world junior bronze medallist Ivelina Ilieva in the same category.
The Renicks sisters suffered early exits with both Kimberly and Louise Renicks losing out narrowly at -48kg and -52kg respectively, whilst Graham Trinder lost out to U23 European Champion Yanislav Gerchev at -60kg.
Day two sees Samsun Grand Prix gold medallist Sally Conway take centre-stage alongside Megan Fletcher in the women’s -70kg category, with Patrick Dawson and Jan Gosiewski in the men’s -73kg and Tom Davis on the tatami at -81kg.
The action will be streamed live at www.eju.net with British Judo providing regular updates through Twitter, Facebook and www.britishjudo.org.uk.
Action starts at 10:00 BST (11:00 CET) with the final block commencing at 14:30 BST (15:30 CET).
Image – judophotos.com