High-kicking sportsman flies the flag at top karate event

Paul and the Osaka squad
Paul and the Osaka squad

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.