‘Cool-customer’ Alfie ready for England bow

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Bradley Lethbridge. Picture: Colin Farmery

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Alfie Cunningham is ready to take on the continent’s top talents when he represents England in the junior European Championships next month.

The Havant karate kid will travel to the Czech Republic to compete in two individual categories.

It will be his first international tournament as he continues to make impressive progress in the sport.

The 14-year-old, from Stamshaw, is already twice national champion.

He also trains regularly with the England squad in London.

Now his excellent displays have seen him called up for the JKA (Japan Karate Association) Europeans in Prague – where he competes in both kata (set forms) and kumite (sparring).

There he has a chance to make a big case for selection to the World Championships later this year in Japan.

Sensei Steve Fife, who coaches Cunningham at Havant Academy, believes the Mayfield School pupil will handle the pressure of taking part in such a prestigious competition.

‘Alfie is a cool customer,’ said Fife.

‘Nerves don’t really seem to affect him but this is a really big competition.

‘This is his first international tournament and if he can do well in Prague – maybe get a medal – he could get chosen to go to Japan for the World Championships.

‘That would be phenomenal.

‘He trains at Westminster in London with the England squad and he’s been picked from a pool of about 50 who go there for training.

‘They take into consideration the nationals because that is competitors from all the best clubs.

‘Alfie is twice national kata champion, so I thought he would go for the kata.

‘But they have also selected him for the kumite as well.’

Cunningham will have great support as he sets out on his competitive international debut.

He can call on the excellent experience gained from a recent trip to Norway for an England training camp.

The juniors will also be aiming to emulate the seniors, who have enjoyed plenty of success at the European Championships in Belgium.

Fife said: ‘The seniors have had a lot of success.

‘We hope Alfie can emulate that and do well.

‘He’s been to Norway and trained there.

‘We are going to Prague to support him.

‘And his family will be out there as well.

‘I am sure he will do well. He’s a good lad and trains hard.

‘He’s a little lad but he’s grown a bit now.’

Cunningham flies out on May 22 and the competition takes place on May 24 and 25.

He has a busy year ahead as he will also be looking to win a third successive national title at Crawley.

His success has been a big boost for Havant – where his younger brother William, who is also a current national champion in kata and kumite, trains as well.

The club hold sessions at Havant Academy on Tuesday and Thursday nights.