By Mike Rowbottom

February 27 - Six victories against opponents ranked above him, including one of his main rivals for London 2012, earned Britain’s under-23 judo champion Ashley McKenzie gold at the Polish World Cup in Warsaw.

The 21-year-old Londoner saw off challenges from some of the world’s highest ranked players in the -60kg weight category, including Anatoliy Laskuta of Ukraine, Fabio Andreoli of Italy and the Czech Republic’s world ranked number 21, Pavel Petrikovm, the latter victory coming through ippon.

The fourth round saw McKenzie strike again with ippon, beating Michael Iten of Switzerland.

In the semi-final there was a first meeting with China’s Yunlong He, ranked 31 places ahead of McKenzie at world number 15. 

The fight lasted five minutes, and and McKenzie’s yuko point earned him a place in the final against Hovhannes Davityan of Armenia.

Davityan, the 2009 World Championship bronze medallist, is one of McKenzie’s biggest rivals as he continues on the road to London 2012.

But fighting a man ranked eighth in the world did not concern McKenzie as he won the fight by ippon.

Commenting on McKenzie's performance, British Judo's Performance Director Margaret Hicks said: "Everyone who is working with Ashley is very pleased for him to win a gold medal and the World Cup title in Poland, against some high quality opposition.

"To finish the final in the manner he did, against a player who has been winning medals at recent Olympic Qualifying tournaments, is a strong indication of his potential. We need to ensure he continues to be progressive on these improvements."

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November 2010:
 McKenzie lifts European under-23 title