Jo-Kai Smith overcame his own battle against adversity to impress on his international fight bow.
The 12-year-old karate kid represented England in his age category in the recent Coupe Internationale de Kayl Championships in Luxembourg and also the European Wado Kai Karate Championship in Budapest, Hungary.
And despite suffering a toe injury, contentious fight pairings, debatable officiating and a bout of pre-fight nerves, Wickham warrior Smith rose to the occasion to claim a bronze medal in Luxembourg on his maiden appearance on the big stage.
Father John, who is also Jo-Kai’s fitness trainer, was extremely proud of his son’s ‘deserved’ achievement.
He revealed: ‘In Luxembourg, Jo-Kai had three fights during the same morning.
‘He won his first-ever international fight by five points to one.
‘But shortly after the beginning of his second fight, Jo-Kai badly injured his toe.
‘He continued, though, and can feel very aggrieved to have lost a close fight 2-1 – against the boy who won the competition section overall.
‘Despite his injury, within 15 minutes, Jo-Kai was back on the mat again, winning his last fight 2-0.
‘That meant he came third overall in his first-ever European competition.
‘I was extremely proud he came home with a bronze medal – it was the least he deserved.’
Two weeks later, and Swanmore College pupil Jo-Kai was back representing his country.
But the promising youngster lost his only fight to a Serbian fighter with an obvious age and size advantage.
John explained: ‘Luxembourg had an under-40kg fight weight, but in Budapest there was just over-50kg and under-50kg.
‘It meant that the Serbian lad Jo-Kai was fighting was older, bigger and heavier.
‘Jo-Kai admitted he was nervous and that he was using one technique – the reverse punch – more frequently than usual. He would’ve mixed it up if he was more relaxed, he said.
Jo-Kai added: ‘If I was relaxed, I would’ve done much better – I’m sure I could’ve beaten him. I’d like to fight him again!’
Prodigious talent Smith is hoping to travel to Ireland and Japan to compete on the international stage next year again – without financial help from England Wado Kai.
If you would like to help sponsor Jo-Kai – as Fareham Creek Veterinary Surgery do – please email his father, John, at: firstname.lastname@example.org