International glory for England’s Cunningham

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Alfie Cunningham returned with a bronze medal from the European Junior Karate Championships.

The 15-year-old, from Stamshaw, shone for the England team in the prestigious Japan Karate Association (JKA) event in Germany.

More than 20 countries lined up to do battle, with around 500 spectators packed into the venue.

Cunningham, a 2nd Dan black belt, who trains at Havant Karate Club, also acquitted himself well in individual action in the kata (patterns) and kumite (sparring) categories.

Instructor Steve Fife, who went out to Germany to support Cunningham, was delighted to see his student return with a medal from the team kumite.

It was a very successful competition overall for the England squad.

Fife said: ‘Alfie was really chuffed to receive his first European medal.

‘The rest of the England team won another 20 medals as well, including boys’ team kumite gold and European champions.

‘Alfie’s mum and dad were there to watch him in action, they were really impressed with Alfie’s fine performance.

‘His younger brother William watched, too, and he will compete next year when he is nine years old.

‘I’m very pleased with Alfie’s first medal in Europe.

‘He fought very well on the day.’

The individual events were really tough for Cunningham as he took on some powerful opposition.

It was always going to be a big battle for the Mayfield School pupil as he went in search of his first international medal.

He picked himself up well after missing out in the individual events and the glory arrived in the team competition.

In the semi-finals of the kumite, England faced Germany in a crunch contest with the chance to fight for gold on the line.

It was a tense clash, with Cunningham involved in the key deciding match-up.

Unfortunately, it didn’t go his way after an exciting battle, but the team had already got bronze in the bag.

Fife added: ‘He went out early stages in the individual kata and kumite to strong Russians and Serbian opponents.

‘He then bounced back in style for the team events, finishing fifth in team kata just outside the medals.

‘But the best was yet to come, the England team kumite 15-16 years old breezed past France and Hungary in the early rounds, but then faced Germany the hosts in the semi-final.

‘With both teams winning one fight each, it was left to Alfie to fight the deciding match up.

‘Alfie scored first with a good punch, then the Germans levelled things up.

‘Then it was sudden death to see who would go through to compete in the final.

‘A great fight took place, only to see the Germans winning with a strong punch to the face, so that meant the England team finished with a well deserved bronze medal.’

It was another big step forward for Cunningham, who last year represented his country at the World Championships.

Next up is the national championships at the end of this month at the K2 Arena, Crawley.

Last year Cunningham picked up a silver and a bronze there.