In early July the USKFI International Squad flew to the Chesterfield in the UK to participate in the Karate Union of Great Britain National Youth Championships. The KUGB Youth Nationals welcomes competitors from across the UK and Ireland and boasts a very high standard of Shotokan Karate. With the World & European Championships on the horizon this particular competition is a perfect opportunity for Karateka to showcase their skills and hope to impress on looking coaches enough to secure their position for the International team. With this in mind it raises the level of the competition even higher.
The USKFI had a superb squad representing Ireland at the event with a combination of our most experienced athletes like Leeanne Royle and Lee McCarthy to squad fledglings Eva Thunder and Caoimhe Gallagher Byrne. We had a total of fourteen competitors with an athlete in almost every category.
First up were the boy's 10-11yrs Kumite. We had three members representing Ireland in this event; Shay Kelly, Ray Foysal & Ryan Cronin. The three boys put on some fantastic performances in this event beating much bigger opponents in the process. After battling through many rounds it was unfortunate that Ray & Shay would eventually meet each other in the semi final. It was a great match between two excellent competitors with Ray going on to beat Shay to secure his place in the final. In the final Ray would meet fellow teammate Ryan Cronin who had a tremendous day on the mats. After some tough matches and some hard knocks in the earlier rounds Ryan showed a bravery & karate spirit that was so impressive for such a young lad. It was a close battle between the two teammates buy Ray's added experience helped him to secure first place. A great result for the USKFI team securing Gold, Silver & Bronze in a packed out event.
Next up it was time for the girl's 10-11yrs to shine, once again with three USKFI members flying the flag for Ireland in this event. Hannah Stewart was on her second international outing while Eva Thunder and Caoimhe Gallagher Byrne were making their international debuts. Once again the USKFI girls dominated a packed out event. Caoimhe showed a calmness and confidence that will bring her a long way in her competition career. She took to the mats like a complete natural showing excellent timing with her absorb & counter attack gyaku tsukis. After her fine performances Caoimhe earned herself a bronze medal; a great result for our debutant.
Hannah was very unlucky in her bout after starting so positively against a very dominating opponent she went a point down. Hannah was relentless though and managed to anticipate her opponents movement scoring with a fantastic jodan mawashi geri to bring the match to 1-1. Hannah tried with all her might to find that second score but unfortunately her opponent was a split second faster and scored the winning point.
Next up for the girl's was Eva Thunder and just like the name suggests she hit the mats like a thunderbolt!! Eva another of our debutants did not once show the apprehension expected of a new competitor; instead she showed the confidence and determination of a true champion. Eva took it one match at a time & dominated each of her opponents scoring with some excellent combinations. Before Eva knew it she had secured her place in the final after her courageous performances in the eliminations. Eva brought that same determination into the finals where she had only one thing in mind and that was the top position on the podium. Eva finished up her first international outing with the title of KUGB National Youth Champion; a fantastic result for a very promising young talented karateka.
For the boys 12-15yrs category we had four members in the event; Leon Hoban & Conor Molloy for the over 5'5 section and Amine Ghanem & Donnchadh Murray for the under 5'5 section. We also had Lee Mc Carty representing the USKFI in the junior men's category 18-20yrs. Some very tough events with the standard extremely high. Although there were no medals won in these events for the USKFI boys they put on some very good & improved performances where they gained invaluable experience that they will bring into their next tournament. Unfortunately after a tremendous start for Leon he had to withdraw from the tournament after sustaining an injury in his eliminations match.
It was our more senior girl's turn next to fly the flag for our team. Sophie Farrell; a consistent performer and a regular to the podium was in flying form at the tournament breezing her way through the eliminations to secure her place in the final. Sophie eventually went on to take home the silver medal after a very close final. Leeanne Royle made her return to competition after a short break. Leeanne took to the mats where she had left off securing a place in the Junior Ladies Kata final after easing through the eliminations. Leeanne performed a superb Kanku Sho in the final and took the title of Junior Ladies Kata Champion.
To finish off an excellent day of competition we had Yacine Ghanem competing for the top spot on the podium for the cadet boys 16-17yr old category. Yacine was on fire in the elimination rounds earlier in the day beating some excellent opposition in the process including former World & European Champions. Yacine has grown as a competitor over the last year and has gained much more confidence which was clearly evident in his dominating performances. In the final Yacine came up against one of the KUGB's finest, a young versatile excellent karateka. It was a nail-biting close final with Yacine taking the advantage scoring first with one of his trademark lightening quick gyaku tsukis. With a few seconds left to spare Yacine's opponent managed to nick a point back to bring the bout to a draw. With a minute extension added the match restarted and as both competitors went for the score a single red flag was raised; Yacine's opponent got the score. Yacine pursued his opponent and tried with all his might to get the score back. His opponent avoided every onslaught that Yacine had to offer. As the match came into its dying seconds Yacine's opponent made the error of dropping his guard in which Yacine capitalised and in the blink of an eye launched one last attack. As the round house kick clipped the back of his opponents head the crowd erupted with cheer. Yacine persistence and relentless determination won him the match in a superb fashion.
This wrapped up a fantastic tournament for the USKFI team topping the medal table with four gold, two silver & two bronze.