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Golden debut for karate kid

BACK TO THE FUTURE: Young talent Francis

AN ESSEX teenager’s dream of becoming the best karate martial artist in world got off to the perfect start when he won gold in his first-ever international competition in the Netherlands last month.

James Francis, 13, told the Voice of Sport that entering the Topsportcentrum in Rotterdam, where he took part in the International Team Tournament ‘Battle of the Teams’, his first foray at that level, was a ‘nervous experience’.

Having overcome the surprise call up into the England set-up 12 weeks ago, Francis admitted that he was pleased he was able to step up and help his team return from their European jaunt with honours to boot.

“I won gold,” he exclaimed. “I was really nervous going into the venue, but because I had prepared as best as I could beforehand, I knew I was ready and the nerves helped me focus and switch on straight away.

“I won my first fight quite well and that gave me the confidence to go on and perform even better than I expected.

“Even though we won the gold I still think I could have fought better. I learned so much in this competition. Everything was new, so I will be better in my next competition, if I am selected for England again.”

Francis’s performance in Rotterdam will go a long way towards his potential inclusion in future England squads and the humble fighter says being able to train with the nations best prospects is helping to upgrade his skillset.

“I’ve made some new friends now so I’m more comfortable than when I first started training with the England squad.” Francis enthused.

“Everyone there has different skills so I have learned a lot already from fighting against them. I want to be one of the best karate fighters in the country and right now I am an orange belt, four belts away from black belt.”

Francis trains at the Shoujin Karate club in Newham, east London, and since finding the sport seven years ago has excelled beyond his own expectation.

Inspired to take up the sport by his cousin and father, Francis says his ambition is to become as good as Rafael Aghayev, who is a former nine-time world champion.

“It will take a long time and I have a lot to learn but I’d like to be the best I can be. I like Rafael Aghayev, the way he moves when he fights is particularly impressive.

“I’m really focusing on my movement at the moment so if I can be as good as him or better I will be happy. Being a part of the England team has opened my eyes to so much. I want that to continue.”

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