Former World Thai-boxing champion Rachael Mackenzie puts Cleethorpes Academy pupils through their paces
CLEETHORPES Academy pupils were treated to an inspiring masterclass from former multiple World Thai-Boxing champion Rachael Mackenzie.
The big-hitting star visited the secondary school, in Grainsby Avenue, to explain the determination and resilience she had to summon to reach the top of her sport.
Rachael, originally from Bradford, started Thai-boxing in 2000, at a club where the coach didn't believe women should be involved in the sport.
But within six years, she had landed two British titles, a European accolade and two world championship belts.
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Pupils at the Academy were gripped by Mackenzie's story and enjoyed the opportunity to try out some combat moves of their own.
"Sport can teach you about mental toughness and the importance of not giving up," said Harrogate-based Rachael, a Sky Sports Living For Sport athlete mentor.
"Martial arts is also about putting yourself in control of your own fate, and not letting anyone else take control of what you can achieve.
"The difference for me was when I could look in the mirror at the end of every fight and every training session, and say that there was nothing more I could have done.
"If kids can do that at the end of every day, they will achieve more than you expect.
"The (Living For Sport) project is looking at the benefits of what sport can give you as an athlete, to inspire the kids to go out and be as good as they can be.
"The young people I meet are so inspiring for me. It is amazing to see so much enthusiasm and desire to achieve."
Rachael, 32, was the first UK woman to fight under full Muay-Thai rules, and won a world bare-knuckle title in Thailand in 2005 – she was the only western competitor that took part.
Cleethorpes Academy pupils were put through their paces with some pad-work and fitness exercises by Rachael, who retired from competitive Thai-boxing last year.
"Just by participating in martial arts, many children might be going out of their comfort zone," she said. "It's often more physically demanding than anything they've done before.
"Many youngsters don't think they can do it, and then they go away feeling like a champion.
"The most difficult thing is often just walking through the doors for the first time – don't write anything off until you've given it a good go.
"Everyone can find a sport that really suits them; you just have to be prepared to try."
Women's boxing was included in the Olympics for the first time at London this summer, and Britain's Nicola Adams, from Leeds, scooped gold in impressive style.
Rachael added: "It was a huge boost for women's sport and I hope it will encourage girls to try combat sports."
Look out for more on MacKenzie's visit to Cleethorpes Academy in your sports pages soon.