Rick ticks boxes for eighth dan

Rick Kenny with Douglas Borthwick in 1975.
Rick Kenny with Douglas Borthwick in 1975.

RICK Kenney is best known in this area for his five-and-a-half-year stint in coaching development and sports recreation positions with Scottish Borders Council.

Yet, beyond the suit and meetings is a man with a passion for the martial art of judo which has lasted 49 years.

Rick Kenny (Galashiels) Hon. life membership of Judo Scotland.

Rick Kenny (Galashiels) Hon. life membership of Judo Scotland.

Rick’s commitment as a player, coach and administrator earned him a lifetime membership of Judo Scotland last month, but he now has eyes on becoming the joint second highest-ranked player in the UK.

Speaking from his Galashiels home, the 60-year-old told TheSouthern: “I am hoping to become an eighth dan in 2014.

“There is currently only one in Scotland (Colin McIver) and five in the whole of the UK. “The UK’s only 10th dan is George Kerr from Edinburgh.

“I got my seventh dan in 2001 but you have to wait a long time because of the criteria, which is based on how much you have put into the sport.

Rick Kenny (Galashiels) Hon. life membership of Judo Scotland.

Rick Kenny (Galashiels) Hon. life membership of Judo Scotland.

“You have to wait that long just to be considered by the International Judo Federation, but I think I tick all the boxes.”

It all started in his hometown of Motherwell at the age of 11, when Rick stumbled upon the sport which would dominate his life for the next five decades.

“I played football at Dalziel High and was a reasonable all-round sportsman,” said Rick.

“But I went into Motherwell YMCA after a football tournament and saw a notice about a judo club. I just decided to go along and try it out and I caught the bug.”

It was obvious the Lanarkshire lad had a talent for the Japanese art turned Olympic sport, and Rick picked up his black belt at the age of 16, unheard of in the 1950s and 60s.

He would progress to British level, and in one year had the honour of grabbing the Scottish junior and senior, and UK closed championships all at once.

But Rick, studying to be a PE teacher in Glasgow, began to struggle against players from London who were training full time with the help of sponsors. His playing highlight would end up being two World University Championship appearances, the latter in 1974 in Brussels which saw Rick finish in fifth place.

What followed was a move into coaching and Rick helped the Meadowbank club in Edinburgh become the most successful team in Scotland during the 1970s and early 80s.

His greatest coaching achievement stands out as leading the Scottish Commonwealth Games squad to seven medals in 1990 in Auckland, New Zealand, including a gold for Loretta Cusack.

Rick said: “For the size of the team, we brought back the most medals for Scotland. We were second in the judo medal table behind England, which has 10 times as many players.”

Rick then turned to the administrative side of judo, including a spell as chairman of Scotland’s governing body.

He was also vice chairman of Scotland’s Commonwealth Games Council for nine years, and in total has been involved in five Games.

“I was there in Sri Lanka in 2007 when Glasgow won the 2014 Games, and it was a fabulous atmosphere. I am sure people will flock to Scotland in two years’ time,” Rick enthused.

Despite being part of the British delegation in 2000, Rick has more disappointing memories of the Olympics, following his experience of Athens in 2004.

He said: “I was selected as GB Olympic team manager in 2002 and took the judo team for two-and-a-half years to ranking events across the world.

“However, we didn’t have enough players for a full team for Athens. so we didn’t get enough accreditations for the back room staff.

“I still went to Athens. but not as part of the team.

“I understood the decision, but it was still tough as I had been with the team for so long.”

It was nine years ago that Rick moved to the Borders to retire, but his appetite for sport in general meant he snapped up the chance to work with SBC before retiring for a second time.

However, his passion for the martial art shows no signs of abating as Rick approaches a half-century since he first stepped onto a judo mat in Motherwell.