The largest Karate Wales squad to leave Wales did so for the biggest Karate event most of them had ever attended, the 6th WUKF World Championships, which took place in Dublin’s CityWest Convention centre from 15th-19th June.
A squad of 49 athletes six coaches and two referees attended, which included thirteen Vale Karate athletes as well as Rob Copeland who as President, headed the delegation and on the occasion of his first International event, our ref, Doru Grad.
These events are a drawn out affair and this event in particular, being the biggest in WUKF’s history, with over 2300 athletes from over 70 federations worldwide stretched the organisers to their limits.
Registration took place on Thursday as did the coaches seminar. The referees had to be there a day earlier as their seminar and exams took place over two days.
The competition began on Friday, with the children’s and Veterans events and our competitors were soon made aware of the magnitude of their task, with most of the children’s categories running to four pools and in several cases, eight pools! It took four unbeaten matches to win a pool, and another three to win the category!
Rhydian Pullin and Greg James in particular were in huge categories of over 80 and over 90 rivals respectively, no surprise then that although both boys did their best, which is an impressive standard, progressing was a mammoth task and wasn’t to be.
Ella Lyons was likewise in a large category and did extremely well, narrowly missing making the later rounds of her Kata category.
Griff Hughes was in a category of sixty-odd, and narrowly missed the later stages, in 13th place. A great result, with plenty of potential and plenty to work on.
Chiara Baker's first Kata was extremely well received, and in another huge category was placed first until the last few competitors, nevertheless standing in second place after the first round, a great start.
Unfortunately her second Kata, Kanku Dai was less well received, and so she had to be happy with a top twelve finish. The reason for the dramatic drop in her score seemed to be a stylistic rather than technical issue and perhaps a different approach (from her coach...) is needed.
Such was the size of the entry that several categories were unable to be held as scheduled on Friday and held over to Saturday, and the same thing happened on Saturday and some ‘Saturday’ events took place first thing (8am) on Sunday!
Kian and Jack George were, as usual, full of enthusiasm, and both have skill in abundance, but were unable to break through to the latter stages.
Jack also represented Wales in team Kumite and although hopes were high for his talented team, success was not to be. Dad Mike was entered in a tough Veteran Kata category and although he did really well, again a podium spot was not to be.
Alysha Lee and Ella Forsyth were in the same huge Kumite category of four pools and they had a tough time as they waited on their mat for literally hours to fight.
When they did, they both came up against strong opposition and their fights really could have gone either way. Like others, their first World Championships was a real learning experience.
Leah Copeland was Vale Karate’s first success story.
She progressed to the second round of the Ladies Open Kata and there earned her highest scores yet at this level, earning the elusive 7.5 from the head judge and two 7.4’s plus two 7.3s. The standard of the best in the category just kept Leah from the top six, but she was very happy with the progress made.
In Kumite Leah was again at her best in both the Individual and team Kumite. In the individuals she was on fire and beaten only by the Romanian World Champion to earn her first WUKF Senior World medal, a bronze.
She then helped the Welsh team (which included Rahinie Karunanithy and Amy Davis) to another bronze medal!
Bradley James and Lucas Widdringtion both competed in the Adaptive Kata category, the first time WUKF has staged this event. Bradley earned a silver medal with Lucas taking the bronze medal. This was one of the very best events of the whole championships with tumultuous applause from the packed audience for all concerned.
Chiara Baker got to the pool final (top 8) of her Individual Kumite category, a fine achievement, but saved her best until last, as alongside Sumaya and Aaliyah from Cardiff and Sasha from Wattstown, among fifteen other teams from all corners of the Globe, Wales took the Gold medal in the 11-12 Girls kumite event!
A great way to bring the curtain down.
Karate Wales as a squad did extremely well in the toughest event we’ve yet attended. Four Gold medals for Kay Powell, Josh Davies, Tyler Foster and our Girls team, silvers for Jacob Denham, Lauren Gallagher, Sam Cana and Leon Jones and bronzes for Lucas Widdrington, Josh Dodwell, Leah Copeland, Rahinie Karunanithy and our Ladies Kumite Team.
Doru seemed at home at such a prestigious event, and obviously impressed as he was awarded ‘Continental Judge’ at his first event.
An overview would be that it was very big, the days were very long and the standard was very high. A hugely worthwhile event that will have a big influence on our squad’s continuing development.