From troublesome schoolboy to Commonwealth gold medallist and Olympian, Ashley McKenzie has been spending time with local judo clubs at Dromore Leisure Centre to talk about his struggle overcoming ADHD.
Ahsley along with Commonwealth gold medallist Danny Williams, presented a masterclass for Simply Judo’s special needs club ican Judo, and Dromore Judo Club on April, 30.
Head coach at ican, Mark Spence, was delighted with the event - the first of its kind for judo special educational needs in Northern Ireland.
“With over 25 players on the mat, it was an unbelievable success,” said Mark.
It was last Halloween that Mark was inspired to set up the ican club . The group meet in Maghaberry and now have 25 members.
During the masterclass at Dromore Leisure Centre, Ashley shared how his judo career began with a playground fight over a stolen Pokemon card and reached its pinnacle when he became Commonwealth champion.
Nonetheless, Ashley is still the first to admit he isn’t your typical world-class athlete.
As a child the 25-year-old sportsman was diagnosed with asthma, eczema, ADHD and obsessive compulsive disorder. He had two hearing aids fitted and surgery to mend a hole in his heart.
However, after a boy stole his favourite Pokemon card, Ashley was motivated to start martial arts.
“I had a Pokemon card, a nice shiny one and this boy took it off me and wouldn’t give it back.
“I got up to whack him and he just threw me over his shoulder - I cried and ran home to my mum.”
But when it came to learning to fight in a more disciplined environment Ashley’s health issues limited options.
“I had asthma, eczema and heart problems so I couldn’t go for boxing, so I started judo at my local club,” he added.
“I wasn’t the greatest academic, it was hard for me to sit down and concentrate but judo was my release.” Taking up judo also helped the London-born star cope with his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD, much to the relief of his doting mum who is very proud of him. Ashley added: “I never thought I’d be anyone’s inspiration.’