Alfie Cunningham bounced back from a knockout blow to shine at the Japan Karate Association nationals – and has now been handed a dream England call-up for this year’s World Championships.
The Havant club talent, 14, took a blow to the head in the kumite (sparring) competition at the K2 Arena, in Crawley, and hit the deck hard.
He was knocked out and needed treatment for 15 minutes, before he was taken to hospital in an ambulance.
Amazingly, Cunningham was given the all-clear after scans to return to the arena for the kata (set patterns) and picked up a silver medal.
That made it two medals for him from the England National Championships as he had secured a bronze in the kumite, with his opponent disqualified for using excessive force.
Havant instructor Steve Fife praised Cunningham’s bravery to bounce back from taking such a severe blow.
He said: ‘It was scary – it was a bit of a shock for Alfie.
‘His mum was there as well and he had to go to hospital. He was down for about 15 minutes.
‘With a head injury, you have got no choice but to go to hospital.
‘He went off in an ambulance and was quite courageous really to get back on that mat again.
‘Alfie had a scan and all the bits and pieces done.
‘The doctor gave him the all-clear and he wanted to do the kata final.
‘If it had been the sparring he wouldn’t have carried on, but he wanted to do the patterns because he was going for a third-successive national gold medal.
‘It worked out well, luckily. He did really well to get a silver medal after everything that had happened. It was an unreal finish to the day.’
In October, Cunningham, from Stamshaw, will be heading to Japan for the World Championships after securing his dream England selection.
Fife added: ‘Alfie is getting quite excited about it.
‘They are getting tracksuits and t-shirts all printed up.
‘There will be 40 in total going, including seniors.
‘But they have only picked four or five kids and luckily Alfie is one of them.
‘They can see the potential and he’s quite cool as well.
‘He can handle the pressure. He thrives on it.
‘It is a privilege for him to be picked for the World Championships.
‘If he gets a medal it will be brilliant.
‘They are going to Tokyo, where karate originated from.
‘You couldn’t get a better place for your first World Championships.
‘It will be good to watch. We’re all going out to support him.’
Havant picked up an impressive total of four medals at the national championships.
William Cunningham – Alfie’s younger brother – secured gold in the kumite brown and black belt category.
It was a third gold medal for the eight-year-old rising star.
He achieved double success in the nationals last year.
Samuel Gilson, 10, picked up a bronze in the purple belt section to complete the medal tally.
Martin Moor and his son Terry also fought well in the brown and black belt category in their first national competition.