On a bumper weekend of British representation on the mat across the globe, Ashley McKenzie took home Fifth place on the opening day of the first Marrakech Grand Prix in Morocco.
In a youthful squad of thirteen athletes competing this weekend, McKenzie was on fine form once again as he progressed through the early stages with relative ease.
He could not find a way past World No.3 Amiran Papinashvili in the Bronze medal contest as he succumbed to an ippon defeat at the hands of the strong Georgian.
Receiving a bye in the opening round, McKenzie came up against Hong Kong’s Martin Lau in the second round but he would prove no match for the Brit as he overpower his inexperienced opponent to register ippon with less than 90 seconds remaining on the clock.
He had to dig deep in Round 3 as he was made to work by home judoka Younes Saddik with the Moroccan judoka taking a waza-ari lead in the opening stages of the contest. Saddik worked McKenzie to the mat and in a show of strength forced McKenzie onto his shoulder. The Brit, however, demonstrated his mental toughness to stay in the contest and just two minutes later spotted his opening to register ippon and progress to the Quarter Finals.
Bulgaria’s Yanislva Gerchev lay in wait for McKenzie, but it was a scrappy contest from the off with Gerchev picking up shidos frequently as the contest wore on. Eventually the referee had seen enough and awarded a third shido to send McKenzie through to the Semi Finals.
Eventual champion Sharafuddin Lufilliaev from Uzbekistan halted McKenzie’s progress at the Semi Final stage though, registering two waza-aris to drop the him into the bronze medal contest.
British Champion Gregg Varey (-66kg) was entering his first Grand Prix competition in around a year and showed no signs of rustiness with a typically energetic performance in the first round. He was able to register ippon against Morocco’s Soufian Hamdaoui but was eliminated in the next round at the hands of Egypt’s Ahmed Abelrahman.
Exciting young talents Alexander Short (-60kg) and Malin Wilson (-57kg) made their Grand Prix debuts today but both exited the competition in the opening round whilst Kimberley Renicks (-48kg) was also eliminated at the first hurdle.