Top of the world!

Kickboxers secure hatful of medals

Published 19/11/2016 | 00:00

Members of the Wexford Kung Fu and Kickboxing Club who won medals at the recent World Championships in Dublin. Back; Patrick Monahan, Bobby O'Neill and Mark Rowe. Front; Michelle Casserley, Darren Hayes, Cathal Moran, Rebecca Rowe, Dale White. Nathan Casserley and Anna Nolan
Members of the Wexford Kung Fu and Kickboxing Club who won medals at the recent World Championships in Dublin. Back; Patrick Monahan, Bobby O'Neill and Mark Rowe. Front; Michelle Casserley, Darren Hayes, Cathal Moran, Rebecca Rowe, Dale White. Nathan Casserley and Anna Nolan

The members of the Wexford Kung Fu and Kickboxing Centre had unprecedented success at the recent W.K.K.C. world kickboxing championships held in the City West Convention Centre, Dublin.

An amazing 18 medals were brought back to the club by a ravenous squad hell-bent on victory. Such was the success of the eight-person squad that they took home more medals than some countries' entire national squads.

President of the W.K.K.C. Ireland and organiser of the event, Michael Dunleavy, said that the achievement of the Lau Gar Wexford team was unparalleled and a truly fantastic achievement for a comparatively small club.

Michelle Casserly showed real determination to go all the way to gold medal position in the ladies' -55 kg. continuous sparring event. Having returned to international competition last year in Florida after a ten-year break and taking a bronze medal, she firmly set her sights at the start of the year on the top spot.

Michelle has trained her heart out all year long and was a very popular winner among the large home crowd. Earlier in the week Michelle put in a great performance in the ladies' Chinese forms section to make it through to the final four, no mean feat in itself.

Michelle's traditional Lau Kuen set routine was not as flamboyant as some of her opposition but her focus and content finished her in third position in a very competitive field. Michelle is a very accomplished point fighter as well and was unlucky to lose in the semi-final, having dominated the early stages against her opponent from Canada who went on to win the section. A jubilant Michelle took home a fantastic gold medal and two bronze.

Dale White has won just about everything there is to win in the Under-18 section, and this year he made the big move up to Senior competition. Undaunted and fighting like never before, Dale was a real star of these championships.

Silver medal in the men's continuous sparring in a real bruiser of a final marked a fantastic first year in the Senior section. Dale was very unlucky not to be in the final of the points sparring as well since, even though he looked the far superior fighter in the semi-finals, the decision went against him and he had to settle for bronze.

Dale went on to avenge the decision later in the team event where he comprehensively beat the same opponent. The Chinese forms section is always fiercely competitive and Dale knew he would have to put in a focused and almost flawless routine to make it to the final four.

This he accomplished handsomely, and in a great final he placed an extremely close second to his vastly-experienced German opponent. Dale went on to the men's team section where the five best Irish fighters fought their way through to the semi-finals, only narrowly losing in a thriller against the hotly-tipped U.S.A. team.

Overall it was a great week for Dale who walked away to much acclaim with two silver and two bronze medals.

Heading into the event as world champion in two disciplines from Florida last year, Anna Nolan from Oylegate fought in the girls' Under-14 section in both points sparring and continuous sparring. Showing incredible determination and skill, she progressed to the final of both sections, winning by maximum score in all her points fights. Anna was really a girl on fire!

Obviously in stunning form, she was quickly added to the girls' team for both continuous and points sparring too. The girls' point sparring team made it through to the semi-final, taking bronze medal position, and then the girls' continuous team reached the final, leaving Anna in the incredible position of being in three world championship finals.

Tragically for her, she took a heavy kick from her American opponent in the final of the team event which left her jaw dislocated. Unfortunately this meant Anna could not compete in either of the individual finals the next day, news that put a real dampener on the entire squad.

Never one to dwell on misfortune, Anna was delighted to be bringing home two silver and two bronze medals.

Rebecca Rowe at just 17 years old is already one of the country's most experienced and successful competitors. She featured in three categories: continuous sparring, point fighting and Chinese forms.

Rebecca started the week with a great performance in the Chinese forms to make it through to the final four, and with a polished and focused performance she finished in third position for a very creditable bronze medal.

Rebecca went on to make it through to the semi-final of both the points and continuous sparring.

A split decision against her in the continuous left her in bronze medal place, and after a hard and close fight in the point fighting semi-final she walked away with no fewer than three bronze medals to add to her impressive collection of international awards.

Mark Rowe was unlucky to miss out on the medals in the men's veterans' section.

Slow to find his form, he let the first half of the fight slip away before finding his range and making an impressive comeback, but it was just too late and Mark knew himself that he had missed an opportunity.

He didn't have much time to think about his defeat as he was coaching the Wexford squad along with chief instructor Bobby O'Neill. With the success of the squad, Mark barely had time to catch his breath throughout the week. Although disappointed with his own performance, he was ecstatic with the overall team display.

Darren Hayes is one of the up and coming stars of Irish kickboxing. This dedicated 14-year-old is making huge progress and this showed in his performances throughout the week.

Making his debut in the points section, he made it to the quarter-finals and was only defeated in extra-time. A seasoned continuous sparring competitor, a lot was expected of Darren in this section. Not one to disappoint, he put in a fantastic performance in the quarter-finals, only to see his opponent's hand being raised in what was surely the worst decision of the week.

The Irish team made objections to the chief referee and filed a complaint to no avail. Everyone watching knew Darren had won, but unfortunately sometimes bad decisions are made. His brave efforts in the individual categories were rewarded with a place on the team event where he took a well-deserved bronze medal.

Cathal Moran made his international debut. Cathal had been fighting extremely well in the run-up to the championships and is one of the most enthusiastic competitors you could meet.

He started out in flying form with some fantastic wins in the boys' Under-10 section +40 kg. points fighting.

The semi-final was a real edge of the seat affair, with the young warrior losing by the closest of margins to take a bronze medal.

However, such was his form that he was added to the three-strong boys' team with clubmate Nathan Casserly. The atmosphere was simply electric as the Irish battled past the English and the U.S.A. to the finals.

It wasn't for lack of support from the home crowd that the lads bowed out to a strong Canadian team in a real showcase of young kickboxing talent. It wasn't a bad start to Cathal's international debut, with silver and bronze medals.

Nathan Casserly also made his debut at these championships in the Under-10 lightweight division. Nathan fought his heart out and left nothing behind him.

Although he was beaten in the quarter-final and did not take a medal in the individual section, he really showed his class in the team event alongside team-mate Cathal.

Nathan's win in the semi-final ensured the Irish team progressed to the final where he picked up his first international medal, one of many more to come.

Chief instructor Bobby O'Neill said 'to say I am proud of my team would be the biggest understatement I've ever made. Every one of the team competed brilliantly.

'My expectations were shattered in the best possible way,' the former world champion said, 'but the most invigorating thing about the result from a coach's perspective is that this squad has so much more to achieve'.

Bobby paid particular thanks to Mark Rowe for all his help coaching the lads and travelling to tournaments the length and breadth of Ireland with them, and to Patrick Monahan who gives his time every week to assist teaching classes and helping with all areas of the club's organisation. Patrick was also a part of the international refereeing panel for the championships.

The team will not be resting for long and they will be straight into action at the Lau Gar Kung Fu inter-club tournament in Wexford next week.

Dale White is also travelling to Greece on the Irish Senior team for the European W.A.K.O. championships from November 19-27 where he will compete in points sparring, Chinese weapons and Chinese forms sections, and on his current form he will no doubt bring further success to club and county.

The club fundraising committee would like to sincerely thank all their sponsors and the people of Wexford who always contribute so generously. Classes are held in Image Health Studios, Westpoint Business Park, and new members of all ages are always welcome.

Wexford People

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