Irish Junior and U21s squad in Santiago 2019
The 11th World Karate Championship was held on the 23rd-27th October 2019 in Santiago, Chile. Ireland was represented by a squad of seven young athletes: 2 kata competitors and 5 kumite competitors. A larger squad was selected but some athletes were unable to finance the trip. Due to arising disturbances only John Connolly, our National Junior Kumite coach, accompanied the squad.
The competitors, some accompanied by parents, set off from different locations in Ireland, meeting up in Paris on the 19th of October 2019 for the final leg of their journey. The decision to travel was not taken lightly due to the unfortunate circumstances which were arising in Santiago. Nevertheless, the World Karate Federation worked to ensure the safety of all those competing setting out strict guidelines. We were further assisted by the Irish embassy in Chile and the Irish ambassador Mr. Paul Gleeson who visited the squad on Tuesday the 22nd of October and subsequently invited to his residence on Sunday following the completion of the Championship.
The event started with individual kata elimination rounds, leading to repechage and finals on Wednesday the 23rd of October 2019.
First up for Ireland were Davey Gannon and Eimear Porter competing in Male and Female kata categories respectively.
Gannon performed Gojushiho Dai Kata in the first round scoring 22.26 which put him within the top 4 competitors in his group including competitors from Slovakia, Slovenia, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Serbia. “I felt the kata went well as I managed to relax and really keep my focus throughout. I finished 4th with a score of 22.26 beating the Serb who has medalled at Youth Leagues.”, Gannon said. Moving to 2nd round Gannon faced competitors from Slovenia, Brazil, Scotland, Greece, Puerto Rico, Slovakia, and England. Gannon said: “I felt I didn’t have as much focus as previous but did manage one of my best katas”. Nevertheless, Gannon achieved a higher score of 22.46 with Gojushiho Sho kata, completing the 2nd round in the 5th place. Unfortunately, as only the top 4 competitors proceed through to the next round Gannon was unable to go through to the 3rd round. Despite this Gannon completed his debut in Junior category at the phenomenal 23rd place out of the 55 competitors, the highest ranking for any Irish kata athlete to date.
Gannon subsequently moved up in the WKF ranking into 30th position of the top junior male kata competitors.
Porter competed in the U21 for the first time, having previously competed in Cadet and Junior categories on European and World levels. She competed amongst 44 competitors in her group starting in the 1st round with her favourite kata Chatanyara Kusanku. She gained an overall score of 20.42 which although not enough to bring her through to the 2nd round was her personal best on the previous performance at the 46th EKF Junior & Cadet and U21 Championship in Aalborg, Denmark in March this year. Porter commented: “The Build up to the world championships this week, since we arrived, has been a bit weird in the sense that there has been some trouble happening…. I was a bit disappointed about how I felt on the floor, it just didn’t feel the same as in trainings. I was also hoping for a higher score. I know I could have done better but this just leaves room for improvement. I’m looking forward to getting back to training and hopefully to represent Ireland again shortly.
I just want to say a quick thanks to everyone who helped me get selected – especially Marie Dolphin, who has always been so supportive. I would also like to thank John Connolly for all the work he put in today, there was a sense of relief and reassurance just having someone sitting in the chair.”
Following her entry into the U21 category, Porter now ranks 46th in WKF U21 Female kata.
Kumite competitions proceeded on the 24th, 25th and the 26th of October with our Juniors competing on Friday the 25th.
Emma Dolan competed for the first time in the Female Junior category in the -53 kg category and her very first World Championship. Dolan received a ‘bye’ in the first round and took on South Africa in the 2nd round scoring impressive 8:0. She followed this score with a 3:1 win against Bosnia in 3rd round. She narrowly lost to a French competitor in quarter-finals by 0:1. Nevertheless, the French competitor went on to win a gold entitling Dolan to fight for bronze in Repechage. Despite the solid performance, Dolan was put out by the Danish competitor 0:6 resulting Dolan finishing in the 7th place. Dolan’s fantastic performance at her 1st World Championship was preceded by attendances at 5 WKF Youth Leagues bringing her to an impressive 20th World ranking as a Junior female -53kg athlete.
Reflecting on her performance Dolan said: “It was a very exciting experience, especially walking out to the tatami to bow in knowing I was representing my country. It all became very real when I saw my name on the screen alongside the Irish flag. While I was happy enough with my performance on the day I know what I need to work on in order to improve my results and be placed on the WKF podium.”
Ayla O’Sullivan competed in -59kg. O’Sullivan fought a tactical fight controlling the area and the pace of the fight. “In the intensity of the fight, I made a small mistake costing me the fight. My opponent scored a point on me. Despite my efforts, I was unable to get scores. I really enjoyed the championship and I gained a lot of experience. I am looking forward to my next competition”, said O’Sullivan having gone out on a single score to the Austrian competitor and the current European Champion. O’Sullivan currently ranks 87th in the World her age and weight category.
Hieu Power competed in the Junior Male -61kg entering a challenging 1st round against the current European and WKF Youth medallist and scoring the first point. Despite great attempts, Power went to lose to the competitor from Azerbaijan 2:3. Nevertheless, Azerbaijani competitor proceeded to final entitling Power to compete for bronze. In the Repechage, Power won the 1st round against the Bosnian competitor 2:0. He lost the following round 0:1 against a Bulgarian competitor finishing in the fantastic 9th place.
“Overall, it was an extremely rewarding experience as I felt strong on the mat and the quality of opponents linked to my performance is allowing me to capitalise on this experience for my next competition. I am extremely pleased with my 9th place at the world.”, said Power who now ranks the 38th in the World in his weight and age category.
Competing on Saturday the 26th October in U21 male kumite were Conor O’Sullivan and Ruaidhri Collins
O’Sullivan, in Male U21 – 67 kg category, drew multiple World and European medallist from Azerbaijan. The two competitors scored a point each to start with, proceeding to hold on each other’s attacks until last moments of the fight when Azerbaijani competitor prevailed ending the match in 4:1. Reflecting on his performance O’Sullivan said:” There was a lot of positives to take away from the tournament personally and as a team. I’m not going to say it was a great experience because I have been there before and have high expectations of myself but I will say it was a great tournament with a very different atmosphere this time around and I feel like I’ve learned so much from being there. I’m grateful to represent my country at this level and I know in my heart I belong at this level and I will work harder to get the results for my country.” O’Sullivan now ranks 71st.
Ruaidhri Collins took on a Costa Rican competitor in U21 -75kg category. Midway through the fight the Costa Rican competitor scored an ippon, a 3 point score, following a kick to the head. In the next encounter, Collins suffered an injury to his hip. Despite his opponent receiving a warning, the injury had a detrimental effect on Collins, who finally went out 0:3. Despite his injury, Collins was pragmatic about his experience:” The World Karate Championships was a very positive experience. There was a great team spirit throughout the week, and everyone got on great.” Collins ranks 68th in -75kg U21 male in the World rankings.
John Connolly commended the athletes commenting:” It was very encouraging to see the ability and athleticism of all Irish athletes. Each one, more than accounted for themselves and proved that they were worthy of their place at this level of karate.”