World champion Thai boxer Rachael MacKenzie packed a punch when she returned to her former school in Bradford to encourage pupils to reach their potential through sport.
Students at St Joseph’s Catholic College, Manningham, were put through their paces by Rachael, who visited yesterday as part of the Sky Sports Living For Sport programme.
Miss Mackenzie, who topped the Women’s Thai Boxing World Rankings in two weight categories in 2006, took part in a question-and-answer session before introducing a group of Year 7 and Year 10 pupils to the sport.
She said: “One of the things we are able to bring to schools is the messages you are able to get from being successful in sport, like the importance of being determined and working hard.
“For the young people, particularly here at my old school, they can see I am the same as them. Being part of Sky Sports Living For Sports is an amazing opportunity to raise the profile of sport across the UK.”
Miss Mackenzie, who took up boxing while studying physiotherapy at university, has also won two British titles, a European title and was the first European woman to compete in traditional bare-knuckle Thai boxing in Thailand.
She has had to overcome prejudice from people who believe women should not compete in contact sports.
Jiorden Hannan, 14, of Idle, a GCSE PE student at the school who started Thai boxing when she was seven, said: “Rachael has inspired me because she’s taught me not to give up and to let people think girls can’t fight.”
Heather Stone, sports development manager for Bradford Catholic Partnership, who arranged the visit, said: “She’s a former pupil, so it makes it more real for the girls. They can think ‘she did it so what’s stopping me from doing it?’. It has made them realise it’s ok to be sporty, but you can also have a life outside.”