MEET the dedicated squad of karate kids who are flying the flag for Sunderland at national championships.
The eight-strong group will be travelling to Loughborough University to compete in the English Championships for the Independent Karate Union at the end of the month.
Two of the squad members, Caitlin Watson and Grace Terry, have already been victorious at international competition level.
Caitlin, 11, from Doxford Park, won silver at last winter’s European Championships at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, while Grace, 10, from Grindon, won gold in her category.
Sensei Ed Gillespie says the squad, which is also made up of Mark Allenby, Rose Miller, Ethan Auty, Shaun Gorringe, Danielle Rowell and Leah Potts, are doing the sport proud.
Ed, of Kazen Kai club, which trains at Penshaw Community Centre and Virgin gym in Doxford Park, said: “These kids are training four to six times a week. For kids their age to be doing that, on top of their school work, shows a lot of commitment.
“Competing at this level isn’t just about natural ability, it’s about training hard. The kids here don’t have the facilities they have elsewhere in the country, but they’ve still managed to win in their categories. As well as karate training, they run every week and do other exercises. They work incredibly hard.”
He added: “Grace and Caitlin, in particular, are really leading the way. They are two of the best all-style competitors in their category in the country.”
The squad also had success at the AMA International Open held in Sheffield in February when Mark Allenby picked up a bronze in the senior category, Grace won gold for her group and Shaun Gorringe clinched gold in his category.