LOCAL athlete, Stephen Corbett, has returned from Lithuania with a bronze medal from the World Karate Championships.
Stephen, from Banbridge, represented the Northern Ireland karate team after being selected in December 2011.
Once selected Stephen trained non-stop with national coach Cathy McAleer who said he committed everything to the cause.
Stephen was put out of the quarter finals by a Serbian, who are the current European champions, namely Dejan Jovanovic.
The three minute bout went to 0-0 draw and in to extra time. After extra time the Serbian couldn’t lay a glove on Stephen as he was in excellent shape. Stephen’s fitness and speed was a match anyone in the category, if not better.
The fight came down to the referee’s decision and unfortunately that decision went in the European champion’s favour. This was a huge disappointment for Corbett, however now he has seen he has the capability to compete with any of the top athletes in the championship it’s made him even more determined to prepare for Australia in May.
His coach, Cathy McAleer, who is a former World Champion, has been preparing Stephen and the team since January for this event. “Squad members are expected to be club training at least four or five times per week with national squad with sessions every fortnight for the last six months, so expectations are high especially in the seniors.
"Corbett was on fire, nothing was stopping him. They couldn’t stick his pace or speed and they struggled to get a score on him.
“Stephen is one of the most driven and committed students I have worked with and his performance and ability have changed so much. He was unlucky not to make it into the final and lift gold.
“The referees made a decision in the European Champions favour and that’s how it goes sometime. This will not hold Stephen back - if anything it’s made him more determined and driven to show his true ability in Australia next year.”
In total the Northern Ireland team returned with a medal haul which included one gold, one silver and four bronze.
Sensei McAleer added, “I am over the moon with these outstanding achievements and I am particularly pleased with the way preparations and achievements this year.
“We had very few injury worries and I put this down to the training plans which my students followed and stuck to. The improvement in standard of the athletes was huge over the past six months and I went out with one of the strongest teams Northern Ireland has had.
“The team where the fastest and fittest they have ever been and travelled to the event with great confidence.”
The team would like to say a huge thank you to their sponsor, Mr Michael Rush from the Independence Group, for his support and funding.