NEXT year is being billed as the summer of sport for Glasgow, but one local athlete has already struck gold – flying the flag for Scotland at prestigious karate championships in Japan.
Paul McMeekin (32) won a gold medal at the Itosu-Ryu Karatedo World Championships in Osaka – a particularly amazing achievement as he has only been studying the martial art for two and a half years.
Paul, from Scotstoun, recently travelled to Osaka with fellow competitors from Charles Hunter’s Ronin Karate Club (RKC) in Govanhill.
He said: “This is the first Scotland has been represented at this particular tournament. We sent over 12 competitors and we managed to come away with a gold, two bronzes and fourth place in the team sparring event.
“We went there not knowing what to expect. We’ve been training for this for two years. We hoped to score a point and then we hoped to win a fight. To take away a gold was totally unexpected.
“The standard was good, particularly the lad I fought in the final. He was really good.
“There were a few bruises. You do take a few knocks and bumps.”
Paul had to overcome excellent opponents on his route to the final of the Men’s Senior Kyu Kumite – where he met Zafar Golomhasan, from Sweden. He duly triumphed, winning gold.
Team-mate Steven Silvestro secured bronze in the same category, contested by 28 top fighters.
Meanwhile, fellow RKC member Bridget Grant won bronze in the Women’s Senior Kyu Kumite.
Paul, a cardiac intensive care nurse at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital, said: “We were honestly over the moon. It was brilliant.
“It was an amazing experience – the trip of a lifetime. The country is so beautiful. It was absolutely unbelievable.”
More than 800 competitors took part from 17 different countries.
Paul and his team-mates have paid tribute to Mr Hunter, who was too ill to travel with them.
The Scotstoun sportsman aims to upgrade his brown belt to a prized black belt and to keep getting a kick out of representing both club and country.
* The club trains out of Govanill Neighbourhood Centre – kids from 6.30pm-7.30pm and adults 7.30pm-9.30pm.