Owen Livesey and I were training partners for 5 years, both living in the full time set up at Camberley Judo Club. We trained together 3 times a day and travelled around the world for various tournaments and training camps. “Liv,” as he is known, and I don’t speak that often now but always have a giggle when we do catch up. He’s currently up north in Hull with a couple of projects, one being Carlson Gracie Hull. If grappling is your thing then definitely go and give one of Owen’s classes a go; a very high level Judo player, wrestled a lot and is already taking some top scalps in the the BJJ world. Liv delivers sessions and the technical aspects of fighting very well too.
Owen put a picture up of himself at the final training camp leading into the 2014 Commonwealth Games on Instagram, we had a quick conversation in the comments section that sparked a brilliantly funny memory that I just had to write down. I have literally been creasing over with laughter whilst writing this so I hope you enjoy it as much I did !
The instagram conversation looked like this:
PHOTO OF OWEN STRETCHING ON A JUDO MAT IN CASTELDEFELS, SPAIN
Comment: Pic 11. 2014. The last training camp of Commonwealth Prep. Castelldefels, Spain.
Me: Prep? Didn’t need it personally!
Owen: That full English was prep if u ask me
Me: Felt so sick in the warm up I think I made myself forget about that. I take it back! Was fully prepped!
Owen: Your can f**k off with that porridge!
3 lads from Camberley Judo Club represented England at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. Ashley McKenzie at -60kg, me at -73kg and Owen at -81kg. Our head coach at Camberley, Luke Preston, was also one of Team England’s coaches. All 3 of us won gold in what was a brilliant couple of days for us, the club and Team England as we topped the medal table of the Judo and onto the The Games as a whole. Ash kick started it by winning all his fights in a dominant fashion on the first day of games. Owen, myself and the rest of the middleweights were to compete on day 2. Owen had prepared as he always did, grafting very hard and professionally. I, on the other hand, had been called up 11 days before after our friend, Ben Fletcher, had been ruled out with a knee injury. I had still been training full time but wasn’t anywhere near fighting weight, it took weeks of controlling my diet and training for me to hit 73kg. I accepted the offer to compete in Glasgow, actually, full of fear, fully aware of what I would need to go through to make the weight. That was hands down the hardest cut and 10 days I’ve ever endured. I always aimed to make weight as scientifically as I knew how too but with that little time to do it I knew I was going to go through hell, the thought that if I didn’t fight at the Commonwealth Games after being offered a place on a plate (excuse the food pun, I’d have eaten a plate if I could have) that I would possibly regret it for the rest of my life spurred me through. Make it I did though.
Anyone that has made weight will tell you that you can get obsessive about certain foods while you are dieting. Bacon was constantly on my mind for that near fortnight. We were at the canteen in the athlete’s village on the morning of competing and I had my porridge and honey weighed out as usual before fighting, I remember looking at it and seeing the fry ups of the athletes that were finished competing. I moaned to lads about still having to wait until later to eat something I really wanted. A quick discussion and that was it, “you can f**k off with that porridge” Owen and I were off, locked and loaded with a fry up each and giggling like a pair of school girls talking about “getting a full english down us and getting some people banged at the tournament”. Really,?! Eating Scottish square sausages, giving it the big one and calling it a full English. All we needed was a burberry cap, England football top and a pair of reebok classics and we’d have been your stereotypical English lads abroad……90 miles north of Carlisle.
We continued to gee each other up on the bus ride from the village to the stadium, taking the mick out of everyone that had their “rabbit food” breaky and how so and so was getting battered when we got hold of them.
We both love competing so were absolutely buzzing as we got ready to warm up, both keen to get stuck in. We started with some mobility, running to get the metabolic system fired and then kits on for some Judo drills and warm up sparring. We were both a little quieter than normal as we started the drills, I felt sluggish, bloated and all round horrendous. “How you feeling” I said to Owen, “sick as f**k” he said! Laughing again we cracked on and got warm.
I clung on like hell and scraped through the first couple of fights, the thousands of British fans in the stadium going mental helped get me through. I literally felt like I was an inch from death! In the second fight I was down until the last 20 seconds, I had one thought along the lines of “shouldn’t have had that bast**d fry up as it felt like the fight was slipping away from me”! I kept the pressure on and put my Aussie opponent away in the dying exchange of the match.
Owen was lamping people. One of us would come back out of the tunnel from the stadium into the warm up room, we’d look at each other, give the thumbs up to say “yep, won that one”.
Next thing you know, 4 fights won each and were both in the final. It was announced that the final block of fights was going to be in 5 hours time as the BBC were broadcasting them live in the evening. That suited me perfectly. Judo weigh ins are done a little differently to the other weight controlled sports. We weigh in at 8pm the night before fighting, the tournament starting at 10am the next day. An hour before the competition begins 4 fighters are randomly weight checked and if they are not within 5% of the weight category then they are disqualified. For example, for me, fighting at 73kg, I would have to be 76.7kg or lighter the next morning if checked. This is to prevent MMA style cuts, putting 10 plus kilos back on after weigh in. So, for me, the long break up to the final was my first chance to get somewhere near fully replenished after the weight cut.
As the tv cameras were on us in the tunnel just before walking into the stadium for the final I felt my opponent look me up and down. I was massive, and I felt it. I felt so much better than I had earlier in the preliminaries. I kept myself calm but was completely alert as we walked out. I banged him for a big score in the first exchange and largely controlled the rest of the fight to win. Gold Medallist at the Commonwealth Games. 12 days before I was at a music festival.
Owen showed a lot of heart to edge passed a very experienced fighter in his final.
2 lads that lived together in a protacabin next to the Judo Club found themselves in a car on the way to the BBC headquarters to go live on British TV that night.
I don’t drink anymore but would get stuck in after tournaments back then. We were taken into a holding room at the BBC and told we weren’t going on set for a couple of hours. “Mate, I’ve starved myself for 2 weeks and you’re telling me that I’m stuck in here this evening” I said to the bloke that escorted us through the building, “don’t you worry lads, look, there’s a buffet down there……. and a free bar”. 2 hours later and we fell onto set. Not that you tell, actually, I watched it back and we came across very compos mentis. In actuality we were trying not to howl with laughter through the entire interview and just nudging each others leg like a pair of naughty schoolboys!
Whether anyone else has found this funny I’m unsure, I suppose most people probably think “you had a fried breakfast lads, not particularly rock n roll behaviour”. Like I said before Owen and I always ate well, researched nutrition and would regular weigh food, we both regularly comment (with a lot of laughter) on how horrific it made us feel. That was the first and last time I ever did anything like that. Lesson learned. That is why, though, however amazing the memories of the day are and winning the Commonwealth Games in front of our families were, every time Owen and I talk about it it is that bloody fry up that is mentioned first!
That is one of many amazing memories that I have made as a full time athlete, memories that I would not have if I’d not have taken a few “leaps of faith” and was still on the end of a plastering trowel.