Three members of the Downpatrick Karate School represented Northern Ireland at the 19th WIKF European Karate Championship 2016 in Rotterdam a week ago.
The event run over three days bringing together the best of Europe, and Downpatrick Karate have proven they can hold their own against the best.
Ireland squad coach and Downpatrick Club instructor Noel Kavanagh (4th Dan black belt) said: “Day 1 saw 11-year old Adam Shannon from Downpatrick win a bronze medal. This was Adam’s first European championship and will certainly be one to remember for him along with his mum and dad who were there supporting the lads.
“Then on Day 2, 16-year old Ryan McEvoy from Ardglass won a silver medal in a very exciting Under-55kg kumite (free fighting) category.
“Following this, 22-year old Rory Kavanagh from Dundrum went on to win a bronze medal in the Under-67kg category. That is the third year in a row that Rory was a medal winner in that category with a silver in 2014 and a bronze in 2015.”
Ryan McEvoy, delighted with his achievement in Rotterdam, said: “We had all trained intensely for at least four months before the championships. I was attending karate sessions four times a week and they lasted up to two hours each. It was tough but our dedication proved that hard work certainly makes a difference.
“I also have extra sessions for kumite (fighting) and it certainly sharpened me up. It would be great to think that I could fight for a place in the Olympics team for 2020. I will be twenty years old then. I have already passed my first black belt (first Dan) this summer and I’m sure I can achieve a second dan black belt by then if I work hard and train.
“I also got into the last group of eight in the kata competition (forms) in Rotterdam, but ended up fifth. But in the fighting competition which I enjoy best, I won my qualifying fight 5:5 on the referee’s decision to get through to the final to get my silver medal.
“I was facing a tough opponent from the Netherlands on his home ground. He was taller, older, and hard to handle. I managed to score two points with a mawashi geri, a roundhouse kick which is my favourite technique. I ended up with a silver medal which I am very proud of. The final score was 5:2. It was a great experience and has made me a better fighter.
“I’d just like to thank everyone in the club and my parents for all their help for making this possible. I’ll certainly be working for my next medal. To date I have travelled to England, Greece, Denmark, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands with the club.
“I hope to be going off to Stuttgart later in November for another tournament. Each time I travel I learn a great deal. Next year the world championships are to be held in Curacao in the Caribbean and that will be worth training hard for.”
Noel Kavanagh, 4th Dan black belt instructor at the Downpatrick Karate Club, said: “The event was live streamed and you could almost feel the support coming from people watching back home while the enthusiastic international crowd also seemed to be drawn to supporting the Downpatrick lads.”
Noel Kavanagh added that this achievement of the club winning three medals must definitely be a record. He said: “Not only were all three members representing Northern Ireland chosen from the Downpatrick club, which is an achievement in itself, but for all three winning medals has to have topped any past achievements.”
“The NI squad will now start back training in preparation for next year’s World Championships in Curacao where they will confidently take on some of the best karate fighters the world has to offer.
“With karate in the Olympics Tokyo 2020 for World Karate Federation and Sport Council recognised competitors, we are also working and training hard to make it possible for our athletes to have a chance to compete at this highest level,” said Noel.
“Realistically there are currently only two or three athletes from Northern Ireland with any possibility of competing at that level and we are happy to say one of these athletes trains at Downpatrick Karate!
“Please follow us on Facebook at Downpatrick Karate and to watch a short video of the 19th WIKF Championships in Rotterdam, or if anyone wants to train with us, starter classes are in Downpatrick Leisure Centre on Sunday starting at 3pm and Monday at 7pm.”