Gympie's karate kid returns a world champion
GYMPIE is home to a new dual world champion, after Riley Merrell claimed two titles at the International Sport Karate Association World Cup in Sydney last month.
The eight-year-old has been training for three years with Gympie's Rimmington Martial Arts and travelled south for the tournament on October 20-22, which landed him a title in both Sword Combat and Clash Sparring.
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"I started karate in 2014 after watching The Karate Kid, I had a friend at school who did lessons so Mum surprised me one afternoon and took me to a trial lesson,” Riley said.
"I loved it and haven't missed many lessons since.”
Riley said this was his second year competing in International Sport Karate Association tournaments.
"This year I entered in four tournaments with the RMA team including Queensland Round Three at Morayfield, Coastal Classic at Maroochydore, Queensland State Titles on the Gold Coast and the World Cup in Sydney,” he said.
The chance to compete on the big stage in his home nation was not lost on the youngster.
"It's a pretty big opportunity to compete in the World Cup here in Australia,” Riley said.
"There was over 1000 competitors representing 12 different countries compete at the tournament.”
Four competitors travelled from Gympie, and Riley, as the youngest, led the team at the opening ceremony.
Riley entered seven events for his division, including, Traditional Forms, Self Defence, Board Breaking, Sumo, Sword Combat, Point Sparring and Clash Sparring.
"I was a bit nervous the week before the tournament, but we did a lot of training in the lead up,” he said.
"My first win was in Sword Combat. There was 19 competitors in total, so I had to compete and win four rounds.
"I was super excited to take home one of those big belts. It was one like Rocky won.
"I also came third in Sumo that day with seven competitors in that event.
"I like Sumo, it's my favourite event.
"All of the sparring was held on the Sunday. I like Point Sparring where the first point scores and it's the best of five.”
Riley said Clash Sparring was a bit more full-on, with a minute and a half round, and the hits seemed a bit harder.
"I placed first in Clash Sparring and second in Point Sparring, fighting three rounds in each event,” he said.
His mother, Kathleen Hillcoat, said she knew what Riley wanted.
"As soon as we got there Riley caught a look at the World Champion belts up for grabs to first place winners and I knew he'd want one,” she said.
"He's been pretty successful at other tournaments so far and has a stash of trophies.
"My advice was to just try his best, but go in hard and don't give up.
"As a result he ended up a dual world champion. I'm extremely proud of his achievement and his determination.
"Just to see his little face light up when he won his first belt was well worth the effort to get him there.”
Place winners in the World Cup are personally invited to attend the Australian Titles in Sydney later this month.
"I've got my invite but it costs a lot to get there so I'm pretty sure I won't get to compete this time,” Riley said.
"Hopefully I'll have the opportunity to compete at another World Cup at some stage.
"I'd like to be a black belt one day, so I'll just keep working hard towards
"Well done to all the other competitors.
" A massive thanks to the local businesses who helped get me to the World Cup. And a big thanks to RMA for all their hard work.”