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Martial arts practitioner Athika, of Year 13, won a Gold medal for Sparring after battling challenging odds in the Final of the Global Taekwondo International (GTI) British Open Championship.

She was also awarded the trophy for overall second place competitor out of all formats in the 15-18 years group – a remarkable achievement for someone who has only been practising the sport for three years.

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art combat sport using the hands and feet for punching and kicking techniques. With the emphasis on head-height kicks, jumping spinning kicks and fast kicking techniques, the sport demands not only physical fitness but mental agility, too.

Athika said: “I have taken part in a few competitions this year and can say the GTI British Open was one of the most challenging, as in the Final I was up against someone a lot taller than me. It’s only two minutes in the ring, but a lot happens.

“She was also given a two-point advantage due to the fact I had just turned 18-years-old the day before and she was 17. She was moved up to the adult division and therefore was considered at a disadvantage.

“However, in taekwondo a two-point advantage can make a big difference. In spite of this, I managed to secure a Gold medal for Sparring. for my club, North West Spirit Taekwondo.”

She took up the sport aged 15-years, following in her brother’s footsteps, and trains for six to eight hours a week. She said: “My mum was keen for me to do it, having seen my brother’s experience, and then I wanted to compete nationally. Luckily, I improved very fast.

“I like the discipline and the training, with the tradition of respect, like bowing to your opponent before you start. It certainly keeps you fit and has given me a lot more confidence. I’d certainly advise anyone to try it.”

Athika also plays volleyball in the National League and says this is just the start of her taekwondo career as she hopes to make the World Championships on the England team.

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