Keighley trio set to make some history

THREE Keighley martial arts youngsters are on the verge of the Cadet World Championships after gold medals at the first selection event, a remarkable feat given Great Britain can only take 20 entrants.

It has not been an easy path for the Horizon Taekwondo Academy trio of Sam Taylor, Muhammad “Hadi” Ejaz and Gina Bene-Hamill, who had to adapt their houses in lockdown, and find a new home after their old venue of Dalton Mills was gutted by fire in March.

Master Rick Simpson is proud of his three prodigies for their achievement over the weekend in Manchester, saying: “These guys have worked extremely hard, starting from when lockdown began really.

“It proves their commitment because having six months off over lockdown would have cost them fitness, sharpness and guile, but they stuck with their training.

“Two of them even converted their rooms into fight gyms in the lockdown.”

And that dedication has put them on the brink of a historic appearance at the Cadet World Championships in Bulgaria at the end of July.

Simpson said: “Great Britain can only take 20 youngsters and there looks like being three from Keighley alone.

“They’re just about there, though there’s one more event this month just to absolutely confirm their spot.

“The competition for spaces is fierce, and I don’t believe West Yorkshire has ever sent anyone to these Cadet World Championships, so it would be special.”

Sam Taylor celebrates with his gold medal and Master Rick Simpson in Manchester over the weekend. Picture: Horizon Taekwondo Academy.

There are 12 Horizon clubs across the Bradford District and Greater Manchester, with Simpson leading three of them in the former.

He said: “Bradford is a very sporty area, but it tends not to get recognized at a higher level.

“The Bradford Sports Awards are great for showing off the structures of clubs, and what they’re capable of, but not at a world level.

“Whereas with taekwondo, we can try and get people to the Olympics one day and we have 12 clubs to achieve that with.”

And Horizon navigated Covid impressively, meaning things are looking rosy for the Academy at present.

Simpson said: “I’m really proud of how we kept functioning, and it was really important, as before lockdown, being able to get out and do taekwondo was something people maybe took for granted.

“During lockdown, there was nothing to do really, but we ran classes online twice a day, over things like Zoom.

“Then when we were allowed, we trained outside, which was unusual as taekwondo is an indoor sport.

“It was difficult with social distancing too, as it is a sport which involves sparring.

“But our guys stuck at it, and as you can see with Gina, Hadi and Sam, it’s paid off.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Gina Bene-Hamill beaming after her gold medal, alongside Natalie Simpson-Kidd, in Manchester.  Picture: Horizon Taekwondo Academy.Gina Bene-Hamill beaming after her gold medal, alongside Natalie Simpson-Kidd, in Manchester. Picture: Horizon Taekwondo Academy.

As mentioned, Simpson, who is Silsden born and bred, only leads the way at three of Horizon’s 12 centers, one of which is the Keighley club.

But he recalled: “We were based in Dalton Mills, but had to move when it burnt down.

“That means we’re now at Springfield Mills on Oakworth Road.”

Simpson is grateful to those who help out with the enterprise, as he knows he could not do it all alone.

He said: “I only teach at three of the venues we have, but the others are all run by people who’ve got to black belt under me, and I’d encouraged them to set up their own Horizons.

“I taught them everything they know, so we can run them in the same way.

“You’ve got Urooj Karim, who I’ve known for 20 years, running the Manchester clubs, then you’ve got others around Bradford, like Anissa Ishaq and Harleen Kaur.

“Harleen runs the Wyke one, and she only switched from kickboxing to taekwondo in 2016, as it has a higher ceiling.

“You have Rick McAvan running the Shipley one too, there’s my wife Natalie Simpson-Kidd, who teaches in Silsden, and several others.”

Horizon have well and truly fought Covid and won, and next month in Bulgaria could see the Academy’s greatest achievement yet.

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