Schoolgirl Leihona Ludlow has become a British taekwondo champion after a terrific performance at the iconic Copper Box Arena in the Olympic Park, London – less than two years after she first took up the sport.
The Ilkeston 10-year-old fought back from six points down going into the last round of the final to triumph 15-6 and lift the female -30kg category crown at the British National Championships.
Leihona went one better than last year when she won the silver medal.
Afterwards proud parents Steve and Katrina Ludlow said: “We are all overwhelmed with what she has achieved in a short time. Words can’t describe how proud we are.”
Leihona, who regularly trains two or three nights a week, had put in extra one-to-one training sessions with her coach, Marc Bell, and his daughter, Ella – Leihona’s main training partner and now a close friend - in preparation for the championships.
The hard work paid off as she won all four fights at the multi-sports venue, which was used at the London 2012 Olympics.
It wasn’t looking good when Leihona was losing 6-0. However, during a 30-second break coach Bell calmed her down, composed her nerves and refocused the youngster.
Then in the third round Leihona overturned the six-point deficit to win 15-6, take the gold medal and be crowned British champion.
Katrina said: “Leihona is a girl of a few words and keeps her emotions and feeling close to her chest usually.
“But when she won in the final at the Olympic Park you could see the pride and joy in her face. She didn’t need to say anything, she just jumped for joy, which showed us how chuffed she was in herself.
“Both myself, her dad and her coach welled up with joy because we were all proud of her achievements. She had four hard fights but took each one as it came and got what she deserved - her gold medal.“
Leihona, of Scollins Court, took up the sport in November 2014 when she joined Bell’s Il Dan Taekwondo Club, based at Edwards Lane Community Centre, Nottingham.
Katrina said: “She was one of the club’s first members. My husband knew Marc through his business and was discussing that we were looking for a club for Leihona to start training at as she wanted to start doing a martial arts sport.
“From then on Leihona seemed to pick everything thing up. On her first grading she double graded and went from a white belt straight to a yellow belt.
“Leihona took to taekwondo like a fish in water. She is Il Dan Taekwondo’s first student to gain a gold medal in an open competition.”
Leihona, who attends Fernwood Junior School, Wollaton, has gained gold, silver and bronze medals at many open competitions this year, in England, Scotland and Holland.
She won silver at the Rotterdam Open and became Scottish champion last month.
Dedicated Leihona spent a week of her school summer holidays at a training camp in Rotterdam, Holland, training two or three times a day for two to three hours at a time.
Mum Katrina said: “She thoroughly enjoyed it and shone throughout.”
Leihona trains a minimum of twice a week, for three hours at a time, at Il Dan Taekwondo, and also attends squad training days at Nottingham Taekwondo Club, where she trains from 11am until 5pm once a month.
She has also spent some Fridays at Doncaster doing extra training sessions with Ultimate Taekwondo.
Now her parents will be looking for sponsorship to help the youngster’s progression in taekwondo and contribute to the cost of training, entering competitions and travelling.
Katrina added: “We have given up a lot as a family to help fund Leihona’s sport, which we do not mind in the slightest. It has paid off with her success.”