IT’S OFFICIAL: Bantry kickboxer Tony Stephenson will represent Team Ireland at the European Games in Krakow next month.
The two-time WAKO World and European champion will compete in the -79kg light contact in Poland, as kickboxing makes its debut on the Olympic stage.
Team Ireland is sending a team of nine world-class athletes to compete in ten events – and West Cork Kickboxing Club star Stephenson is the only Cork and Munster fighter bound for Krakow.
He will test himself against the best in Europe at these multi-sport Games, run by the European Olympic Committees (June 20th to July 2nd), as 7000 athletes from 48 countries compete over 12 days.
Stephenson (31) is a realistic medal hope and will take confidence from his silver success at the WAKO European Kickboxing Championships in Turkey last November. There, he stepped up two weight classes, moving from his favoured -69kg, where he won a world senior title in 2019, to -79kg, and he’ll compete in the latter next month.
‘It’s not my preferred weight class, but I got silver at the WAKO Europeans and I qualified for the European Games off the back of that,’ Stephenson told the Star previously.
He was in action at the Turkish Open WAKO World Cup recently and won gold in the -79kg category, beating Turkish, South African and Iraqi fighters en route to gold.
The addition of kickboxing in the European Games is an important step in its journey to become an Olympic sport. David Heffernan, Kickboxing Team Manager, commented: ‘This is a big moment for our sport, and we have nine incredibly talented athletes ready to take on the challenge. It is our first time competing within the Olympic multi-sports environment and we are looking forward to showcasing our sport.’