We've all heard some hard case thank yous from sports people to their mothers over the years.

Let's face it ... nobody could have embarked on a sporting career of any kind had their mothers not introduced them to the world. But Hawke's Bay judo exponent Thomas Mackenzie who will be the sole Hawke's Bay representative in the New Zealand team at the Oceania championships in Tonga next week has a little bit extra to thank his mother Lizz Mackenzie for.

"Mum did her nursing training with Melissa Jones when we were living in Gisborne. Melissa's partner Jason King is the head coach of the Gisborne Judo Club and it is through them that I first got involved with judo five years ago," Mackenzie, 16, explained.

A Havelock North High School Year 12 student who moved to the Bay last year, Mackenzie, will be the only Kiwi cadet male in the under-18 under 81kg division in Tonga. While the April 28 and 29 champs will be his first taste of official New Zealand representation he has had regular trips across the Tasman in search of international competition.


"I want to get among the medals. I'm not sure how many other competitors I will be up against and it could be a knockout event," Mackenzie said.

A quick glance at his judo CV suggests he is more than capable of ticking that goal off. The Kiwi No 1 in his division last year, Mackenzie, is a multiple North Island champion and at last year's nationals he won silver in his division.

At the recent Wellington Open Mackenzie won gold in the under-18 cadet male open division, silver in the junior men's under-21 division and bronze in the junior men's open division. A member of the Napier and Gisborne clubs, Mackenzie, trains at the Napier club under sensei Andy Truman twice each week and travels to Gisborne for weekend trainings.

The Kiwi team in Tonga will consist of 32 judokas and four coaches, two of whom are from the Gisborne club including King who is the New Zealand men's coach.

"Jason is my idol in New Zealand and technique-wise Shohei Ono of Japan is the judoka I admire the most," Mackenzie said referring to the gold medallist in the 73kg division at the Rio Olympics who is also a two-time world champion.

A Jarrod Cunningham Senior Sports Academy inductee at his school, Mackenzie, has made judo his No1 sport and dreams of Olympic Games selection in the future. However, he is realistic and knows how tough that road is and with the new Olympic cycle under way Mackenzie is also aware of new rules which have been introduced to make judo harder and faster and more television-friendly.

"Commonwealth Games within the next two or three is the first target," he said.

When Mackenzie isn't on the mat he is likely to be found playing football, futsal or working out with his stand-up paddleboard. When he finishes school he hopes to study to become a sports physiotherapist.

■ Napier Judo Club's trainings are on Tuesdays and Thursdays: juniors 6-7pm, seniors (14 yrs and above) 7.15-8.30pm. Sensei Andy Truman said everyone is welcome to give judo a try.