WHEN it comes to finding out where Commonwealth Games champion Lachlan Moorhead got his fighting spirit from...just look to his dad. Lucy James goes to meet him...
A WEEK on from Lachlan’s stunning victory at the Commonwealth Games judo event, dad and former trainer Matt Moorhead is still smiling about his son’s achievements.
It was a special birthday last Tuesday for Matt who turned 57 on the day Lachlan overcome the Canadian favourite to secure the gold medal for England in Birmingham.
He said: “I am absolutely over the moon with Lachlan - it was an exciting competition which could have gone either way as there were a few mistakes here and there.
“It was edge of the seat stuff.
“I was sat with other coaches who have years of expertise and they were all routing for him; they were pleased to see him with England on his back.
“It was nice because they’ve all had a helping hand in helping Lachlan get to this level.
“We were a bit of a sorry sight when he won - a group of grown men in tears.”
Matt said it was nerve-wracking watching Lachlan fight.
“It’s hard to put into words exactly how I felt when watching the competition - but I felt a mix of nervous, terrified, elated and proud.
“I felt nervous when I was watching this fight in particular, because I want him to achieve his dreams.
“He’s done extremely well for his age so far - he’s only 22 but he’s amazingly strong.”
Matt actually set up Penistone Judo Club due to there being no others in the surrounding area. Lachlan quickly emerged as the star pupil.
The club, based at St John’s Community Centre, is open every Saturday morning.
Matt added: “I’ve done judo for about 30 years now; I used to box - I’ve even sparred some heavyweight professionals, like Neil Kirkwood.
Unfortunately, Matt’s boxing career was cut short.
“When I was 26, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes,” he said.
“Getting the diagnosis meant I couldn’t box anymore, mostly incase I ran out of sugar mid-fight.”
That was just another hurdle to overcome for the retired PE and special needs teacher.
He wasn’t about to let his health get in the way of his passion for combat sports.
He added: “I didn’t want to stop fighting entirely.
“I love confrontation - it’s just one of those things - some people love speed, but I love confrontation; it just feels great, so I took up judo.
“Of course, the feeling doesn’t beat watching your son get gold at the Commonwealth Games - but it’s a great feeling, and with judo, you fight every time you train, unlike in boxing.”
When Matt’s sons were about six and eight years-old, he was driving them both to judo training in Sheffield and Huddersfield.
That had to change.
He said: “Having to travel every week, and the fact I thought no one else could train my boys better than I could, was what made me think to open my own club in Penistone.”
With his sons, and a few of their mates, Matt opened up the club, initially with about a dozen members.
He could have never imagined how it set his son on the path to glory and potentially becoming an Olympian in Paris 2024.
He said: “I’ve heard from all my family members; even distant relatives and former colleagues who I haven’t seen in a few years have got in touch to say congratulations.
“People out and about who know Lachlan or myself have also shown their support, which is really nice.
“It gives me a bit of standing in the community.
“It’s nice to see the children build their confidence too - some of them come with the hope to take leadership amongst their friends, or to stand up to a bully - it’s all about character building.
“Knowing I’ve helped them achieve these things is such a good feeling.”
LACHLAN Moorhead’s success could just be the start for Penistone Judo Club with more youngsters developing at their base.
Trainer Matt, who is also Lachlan’s dad, has high hopes for the rest of the club members, who are aged between five and 18.
He told the Chronicle: “Some are very talented and could go a long way if they keep training and doing competitions to get each colour belt.
“We have a few 15-16 year-olds who are borderline black-belts.
“It adds satisfaction when you see that the children are doing better and are improving.”
Matt’s hoping to increase the club’s footfall in the upcoming months.
He does it for the love of the sport.
To get involved, you can contact the club on their Facebook page.
They train every Saturday morning at 10am at St John’s Community Centre.