Karate: Inspirational young star earns elite squad call-up
CLEETHORPES karate kid Lacie Stembridge has earned a call-up from a renowned national squad coach as the sport gears up for its 2020 Olympic dream.
Twelve-year-old Stembridge, a student at Grimsby's Kaizen No-Michi School of Shotokan Karate, has been selected for the Japan Karate Shotorenmei (JKS) England Elite Squad that will compete in national and international events.
The youngster's call-up comes as karate is bidding to earn selection as an event at the 2020 Olympics.
Stembridge, the first student at the Grimsby club to climb from beginner to black belt, won silver and bronze medals for JKS England at the 2011 World Championships.
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And her talent could now flourish to the very top now she has been selected by the new JKS England Elite coach, sensei Matt Price, who is a fifth dan black belt renowned for his high standards on training and commitment.
Sensei Andrew Jones, fourth dan, has steered Stembridge's rise through the ranks at Kaizen No-Michi since she started karate six years ago.
The Grimsby chief instructor said: "The selection process was a tough one this time, but Lacie has shown true karate spirit – she set herself the goal of getting on the elite squad and achieved it. With this mind-set, dedication and talent, the karate world is her oyster and she will go far.
"The ultimate achievement would be if karate makes it into the 2020 Olympics: Lacie would be at the perfect age and experience to become an Olympian!"
In the six days before the elite squad selection event in Leeds, Stembridge took part in the Japanese tradition of Kangeiko – which saw members of the Grimsby club affirm their commitment to martial arts by enduring 6am training sessions at Cleethorpes beach.
"Her determination and commitment to karate has definitely paid off," added Jones. "She is one of the youngest members of the JKS England Elite Squad. She is a credit to Kaizen No-Michi and is an inspiration."
Stembridge, who has competed competitively since the age of 8, won silver as part of the girls' kumite (fighting) team and an individual bronze in kata (forms) at the 2011 World Championships, held in Edinburgh.
Former senior World Karate Championship bronze medallist Jackie Jones, a 3rd dan sensei at Kaizen No-Michi, said: "We are all very proud of Lacie's achievements."
The 2004 North East Lincolnshire Sports Association Sports Personality of the Year winner added: "She assists with our Tigers (children's) classes and is inspiring future generations at Kaizen No-Michi.
"All of the Tigers respect and look up to her as a positive role-model."
Kaizen No-Michi School of Shotokan Karate meets at Ormiston Maritime Academy in Westwood Ho, Grimsby. For details, contact 07790 011632.