Karate-ace Alfie strikes gold with William also topping podium

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Alfie Cunningham crowned his spectacular year with a gold medal at the Japan Karate Association England Open in Crawley.

It was an impressive return to domestic action from the Havant star.

He showed the added experience gained in Japan when he reached the finals of the World Championships.

After a successful first appearance on the world stage, the England international was always going to be one of the favourites to win the gold in the 13-to-15 age category at the K2.

He thrived under that pressure with a strong performance.

Cunningham beat rivals from Scotland, Germany and Malta on his way to reaching the final of the black belt kata.

The 14-year-old also saw off some of his international team-mates as his set pattern work impressed the judges.

In the final he performed jion kata to get top marks to win the title in great style.

Havant coach Steve Fife was delighted to see Cunningham show his quality when it mattered.

He said: ‘Alfie blew the other English boys away. He was different class.

‘Alfie was in the zone. He just went for it.

‘They had around 50 to 60 people competing and Alfie got the highest score.’

Fife admitted Cunningham has achieved more in 12 months than most could dream of in a full career in the sport.

He started his year with two medals in the national championships after being knocked out on the way to the finals.

Next up was the European Championships in Prague, where Cunningham reached the final.

The way he performed in his first major international event impressed the England coaches.

As a result, Cunningham was rewarded with a place on the plane to Japan for the World Championships.

‘Alfie is doing so well and as a club we are very proud of him,’ said Fife.

‘In the nationals he got silver and bronze.

‘He got to the final of the European Championships and the final of the World Championships.

‘It was good for him to win gold in his home competition to finish the year.

‘To do all that is incredible. I could only dream of doing all that myself in my whole career.

‘He’s done it all in one year. He’s on the verge of a major international medal and we are so proud of him at the club.’

Overall, it was a highly-successful tournament for Havant karate dojo, with Alfie’s younger brother William also winning England Open gold.

A strong display in blocking and countering techniques saw William, eight, seal his victory in the brown belt, seven-to-nine age group.

It was a day to celebrate for the Cunningham family and for the club.

Fife believes William could also soon be performing for his country as he follows in Alfie’s footsteps.

‘William could possibly join up with the national squad next year,’ said Fife.

‘So the Cunningham boys are really flying.’

Another of the club’s youngsters, Samuel Gilson, also put in a strong performance in the purple and white kata and kumite, age 10-to-12 section.