Cheering a golden treble
PROUD coach Luke Preston believes Camberley Judo Club have been handed a springboard for success on the world stage after landing a unique golden treble at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Providing three of the seven male England representatives, the Camberley club celebrated a hat-trick of gold medals in the space of 24 glorious hours with Ashley McKenzie, Danny Williams and Owen Livesey all winning their respective classes.
The Camberley club reaffirmed its position at the very top of world judo after Team GB veteran Karina Bryant ended her glittering career with a bronze medal at the London Olympics in 2012.
Now, after arguably the most prestigious weeks in the club’s history, Preston – who doubles up as club and national coach – reckons, with added backing, the Camberley club can push on and produce more champions at Rio 2016.
“I am extremely proud of the three athletes and the England judo team in general,” Preston said. “For Camberley to be home to three Commonwealth Games gold medallists is a fantastic achievement. It is great for the club, the whole town and borough. We now need continued support to help qualify our athletes for Rio 2016.
“At the moment we only have one funded athlete at the club so sponsorships is vital if we want continued Commonwealth, European, World and Olympic success.”
Expectations were high for the CJC fighters from day one. Ranked 17th in the world, McKenzie, the 2013 European bronze medallist, was favourite to win the title in the -60kg class and he did not disappoint.
Victories over experienced Scot John Buchanan – the former World bronze medallist who trained at Camberley for 13 years – and Neuso Sigauque, of Mozambique, earned him a final against Navjot Chana of India.
Chana, a four-time national champion, took the lead with a seven-point throw but McKenzie quickly fought back with a seven-point throw of his own and the three penalty points picked up by his opponent separated the pair at the end in the Englishman’s favour.
“I’m pleased to be here and would like to thank the people who have got me here,” McKenzie said. “My coach Luke Preston and all the sponsors at Camberley, we couldn’t do what we do without their support.”
Williams was called up to the England team just days before the Games due to an injury resulting in withdrawal of ex-Camberley club mate Ben Fletcher.
Williams faced a tough first contest in the -73kg category against Welshman Connor Ireland but overcame him by two small scores before coming from a score behind to beat three-time Oceania champion Arnie Dickens.
Further victories over Northern Ireland’s Eoin Fleming and Australian champion Jake Bensted saw him face Kiwi Adrian Leat in a brutal final contest which was eventually won through an early seven-point score.
“That was incredible,” Williams added. “The majority of the people here have been preparing for months and I had six days to prepare but I could have done it in a day if I had to. I’m looking forward to getting back to Camberley to share my experience with everyone that has been supporting me.”
Also on day two, Livesey started his -81kg campaign with victory over John Muthee Kirimi, of Kenya, before then overcoming Zambian Boas Munyonga by the same method to earn a place in the semi-final.
Another maximum score in the opening 30 seconds was enough to dispose of Canadian Jonah Burt and earn a closely-fought all-English final against Tom Reed, eventually won by a single penalty.
Livesey added: “When I moved to Camberley the Olympics was the only thing I have wanted to do. Hopefully, now I have the confidence, I will do it. I’ve never fought anywhere with atmosphere like this. Now I have witnessed it with the crowd behind me it is just fantastic.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me at Camberley, with no funding I rely on sponsors at the club to help me, Without them I wouldn’t even have made it in to the team, now I’m stood here with a gold medal.”
Camberley and Team England coach Luke Preston, second left, with gold medal trio Ashley McKenzie, left, Danny Williams and Owen Livesey