Rising-star Alfie repeats national glory

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Alfie Cunningham is celebrating another national kata title after obliterating a top-class field.

The teenager, from Stamshaw, reaffirmed his position as the dominant force in the country, at the K2 leisure centre in Crawley.

He’s now got his sights set on medaling at the European Championships next year.

That could then clear a path to a dream trip to Tokyo for the Japan Karate Association World Championships.

The Mayfield School pupil is developing at a rapid rate and after winning the 10-12-year title last year, Cunningham returned to prove himself the undisputed king of the higher 13-15-year age group this time out.

He’s also a regular at the England training camp and his dedication is paying off.

Sensei Steve Fife, Cunningham’s instructor at Havant Karate Dojo, believes the 13-year-old is a star in the making.

He said: ‘Alfie won the nationals last year and now he has gone up another level.

‘He moved up to the 13-15-year age group and was up against the other England guys.

‘Basically, he blew them away – he took them apart.’

Cunningham cruised through the preliminary rounds and the semi-final with top marks for his advanced kata.

Then, in the main arena, in front of a packed crowd, the dedicated ace beat three other England squad members with a flawless set routine.

He received the highest score of 35.5 from seven judges – including a Japanese master.

Fife added: ‘All the referees gave him top marks.

‘He went through quite easily and was really impressive.

‘Alfie’s got great potential. He trains hard and analyses his attackers as well.

‘He’s totally focused and has a great attitude and great commitment.’

Cunningham joins up with his England squad-mates twice a month and is firmly establishing himself as one of the top talents in the sport.

‘Alfie enjoys training with the England squad at Westminster,’ added Fife.

‘He has made a lot of friends at the England camps.

‘Alfie has been going along for about a year and is well cemented in the squad now.’

Next up for Cunningham could be the four nations Ambassador Cup competition – when England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland clash in Crawley.

He may also make the trip to Norway to compete at the end of this year – after he goes for his second-dan black belt in September.

But the ultimate aim is to medal in the Euros next year and earn a place at the worlds.

Fife said: ‘Hopefully Alfie will go to the European Championships and if he goes well there and gets a medal he may get to go the world championships in Tokyo.

‘That would be pinnacle – especially as it will be the 10th year of the Japan Karate Association.’

Following in Alfie’s footsteps is his brother William, who has just turned seven.

He picked up a bronze medal on his national kata competition debut in the six-to-nine-year category.

It was an impressive feat given William has been training for only nine months.

‘William is also very focused and trains hard as well,’ said Fife.

‘He seems quite confident and could be an England squad member of the future.’

Both Alfie and William will be showing off their skills at Havant Academy, Wakefords Way, today.

There is a sports open day, with a series of demonstrations from 11am to 3pm.