ASHTON-LEE Whalley has the drive to succeed after judo helped to change his life.

Ashton, 16, is a motor vehicle and Sports Scholarship student at Blackburn College and has also been selected to represent England at judo’s European Cup in Romania.

Now Ashton, who is ranked number one in Great Britain for his age and weight (46kg), dreams of Olympic glory.

“I started judo aged seven because I was quite unruly,” admitted Ashton, from Sandwich Close, Blackburn.

“My mum’s friend recommended judo to me to give me some discipline and something to focus on so I would stop getting into trouble.

“It I hadn’t take this, I would have probably gone on a totally different path – it changed me for the better.”

Ashton, who is a member of Shadsworth and Beach Judo Club, admits his uncle John Parker, who recently died, also had a huge impact on his judo life.

“My uncle was a major influence and a huge support to the family,” said Ashton, who also struggled with dyslexia but achieved better grades than he expected at Our Lady and St Johns.

“He funded my training, kits and travel to matches. He died of a heart attack recently and now I would love to make him proud by winning a prize at the European Cup.“ Funding is something Ashton needs as, at the moment, he uses the money from his part-time job at Spike Mobile Valeting to finance his sport.

“I fund my own travel and expenses and it is expensive as my kit alone is £200.”

He trains three times a week on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and fights at the weekend.

He is dedicated – even travelling to Birmingham every Tuesday for a gruelling training session – and has fought all over the country as well as in Holland, Ireland and Belgium.

“After the European Cup, I hope to be selected for the Olympics in 2020 – when I will be 22 – and the World Championships. I want to go as far as I can.”

And while he dreams of being a judo star, his back-up plan is his motor vehicle qualification.

“I came to Blackburn College because of the new Motor Vehicle centre due to open in September this year.

“It’s exciting knowing we will be learning in brand new facilities and the tutors are working closely with local dealers to give us the best experience.

“Learning motor vehicle is enjoyable but it’s really just a back-up plan in case I don’t achieve my dreams of becoming professional.

“Everybody has a car so it’s a qualification I’ll always be able to use.”

Ashton is now looking for help from local businesses to help to fund his judo dreams as he looks to become a top medal winner.

“A lot of events like the European Cup will get lots of coverage and most are streamed live on the internet so there are a lot of opportunities,” added Ashton.

Anyone interested in sponsoring Ashton please contact Kelly-Ann McGuigan via 07927 151419 or e-mail address mcguigankellyann