Alfie dazzles to earn England call-up

Alfie Cunningham. Karate. (October, 2011)
Alfie Cunningham. Karate. (October, 2011)
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England selectors took one look at Alfie Cunningham before naming him in their squad.

The 13-year-old talent was invited to train with the team after he capped a fine 2012 by becoming the national kata champion.

And coaches were quickly won over by the Stamshaw ace.

He will now feature in the England squad in 2013 – and will represent his country at the World Junior Championships in Japan next year.

Steve Fife, sensei at Cunningham’s Havant Dojo club, revealed his young charge was ‘over the moon’ at the call-up.

But he insisted the teenager would not get carried away by his rapid rise into the international ranks.

‘He was over the moon when he got told he had made the England squad,’ said Fife.

‘Alfie had only trained with England on one occasion.

‘But this was enough to impress top Japanese instructors who had been watching and monitoring him for a year.

‘He has now upped his training to two or three times a week with me and then at Westminster in London twice a month.

‘He seems quite up for the challenge but he has got his feet firmly on the ground.’

The announcement came after a fine year for Cunningham.

He defeated 40 opponents on his way to the national kata final in Slough.

Aged just 12 at the time, he produced a mature performance in the final and walked away with the crown.

Three of the rivals Cunningham beat to the prestigious honour were England squad members.

It was a remarkable display from the promising youngster, who only took up the sport at the age of eight.

The highlight of an exciting year ahead for Cunningham is a trip to Serbia for the European Junior Championships in May.

And if all goes well, the teenager’s jet-setting will continue in 2014 with a trip to Japan for the worlds.

For Fife, a chance to test himself with the best young talents on the globe is deserved reward for all Cunningham’s hard work.

‘He rose to another level when he won the nationals,’ said Fife.

‘The European Championships will be another step up – and the World Championships will be the top level.

‘You can not get better than that.

‘I noticed his potential when he was grading from white belt to yellow belt.

‘He seemed to progress very quickly and I think he will be a good fighter.

‘Alfie has done really well and really lived up to my expectations.

‘He has quite a big year this year, though, so he has to continue to train as hard as he is at the moment.

‘But if we keep him focused, I think he will be alright.’