KUGB National Youth Championships 2019
A USKFI contingent of twenty-two travelled to Chesterfield in June to compete in the KUGB National Youth Championships. The team consisted of seventeen athletes, USKFI coaches Sensei David Royle and Pat Keegan and international referees Senseis Jim Bartley and Bernard Gaffney. Finally, the team’s PR officer Eleanore Coates was there to capture the team’s superb performances on film. As with all international tournaments the USKFI fully fund all trips for the international team and have done since its inception many years ago. The 2019 USKFI international squad has a mix of experienced competitors as well as some junior competitors just starting out on their international competition career. Regardless of the team’s experience this team of young athletes performed extremely well and represented the organisation with a high standard.
Leeanne Royle en route to the title
Monasterevin’s Noah Smith was the first of the team to take to the mats. Showing great heart and passion, Noah progressed through a total of three rounds before being narrowly beaten by the eventual winner of the 10 -11yr old boy’s kumite. At the young age of 10, Noah showed great enthusiasm and drive to win his matches. The high standard in this event meant competitors had to raise their game which Noah certainly did and although no medal for him this time around he is certainly showing lots of potential for the future.
Nadia Nya en route to the final
Up next was the girl’s 12-15yrs kumite in which the team had a total of five competitors. Malina, Rachael and Zuzanna battled it out in their matches and had some very good performances once again showing a lot of potential for the future. On the opposite area it was Corduff’s Nadia Nya and Kingscourt’s Eva Thunder turn to take on some of the KUGB’s finest girls. Eva progressed round by round but unfortunately was pipped by a sharp tsuki by her opponent and narrowly missed out on a place in the finals to the eventual winner of the event. Up next was Nadia who on her international debut showed a hint of nerves in the first match but after channelling them nerves in the right way was soon in flying form storming through the elimination rounds. Nya continued to gain confidence match by match and soon found herself in the finals fighting for gold. Nadia had a superb battle in the final against a tough opponent and after a very close match Nadia settled for silver as a sharp ippon jodan gyaku tsuki was the deciding factor of the match. This was a great experience for Nadia to build on for her future competition career.
Noah Smith in action
The team’s boys equalled the girl’s performances. Squad newbies Ryhs Kearns and Ronan Hynes done particularly well considering it was their first outing on the international circuit. They showed great courage and determination and stood toe to toe with some of the KUGB’s finest lads. The boy’s gained something more valuable than any medal and that’s vital competition experience that they will carry to future championships. Ray Foysal from Phibblestown stormed through his first three rounds even claiming a jodan mawashi geri ippon, one of the best scores of the day. Ray reached the semi-finals and in a close exchange of blows was scored upon. A close call with ten seconds remaining meant Ray received a bronze for his efforts. Ray’s teammate Aaron Saju who was also making his international debut, took to competing like a natural winning his first match with an ippon using ashi-barai - gyaku tsuki combination. Again, another very promising prospect for the future.
Navan’s Joshua Smith took to the mats in style storming through round after round showing experience beyond his years. Joshua progressed to the finals where he claimed a second place after another close battle with his opponent.
With two of our senior competitors competing in junior ladies kumite, Tori Maher and Sophie Farrell fought to the best of their ability but unfortunately were narrowly beaten. At this level of competition, the margins are very minute and these two young ladies performed really well in what was a very tough event. The girls left with valuable experience which they will carry into their training for the World Championships coming up in September.
As the kumite events came to a close, it was the athletes time to shine in their kata events. Building on his excellent kumite performances Aaron Saju pulled out strong performances but again was unlucky not to get a place in the final. Within the same event, Rhys Kearns, Aaron Smyth, Noah Smyth, Conor Meagher and Ronan Hynes represented our team well.
The girls Rachael McEneaney, Eva Thunder, Malina, Zuzanna and Nadia put on some fine displays in their Kata sections. The girls gained some valuable competition experience performing in a competition of such a high standard. This is important for competitors at their age as they are aiming for the World and European Championships.
Finally, it was time for Leeanne Royle to take to the mats for the first time since making her competition comeback. Leeanne who is perhaps the teams most experienced competitor progressed through the eliminations with some very solid performances. Leeanne took on the very challenging Kata Gojushiho Dai for the finals where she eventually took the title of National Youth Kata Champion against some very tough opposition.
Squad coaches Sensei D. Royle and P. Keegan were extremely happy with the squad’s performances mentioning that the team’s support and camaraderie towards each other was admirable. The members were united together throughout the day supporting each other. They were especially impressed with the squad’s newest members who took their first step in their competition careers and rose to the challenge. The USKFI are proud of our squad and are looking forward to the Shotokan Cup as well as the World Championships in September.