WEST Cork kickboxer Tony Stephenson has two reasons to smile this week – he won a medal at the recent WAKO senior European kickboxing championships and also qualified for the European Games in Poland next summer.
Stephenson was one of four West Cork Kickboxing Club fighters at the senior Europeans in Antalya, Turkey, and they brought home three medals.
2019 world champion Stephenson moved up two weight divisions to compete at the European Games’ qualifying category, and started his first round of qualifying on the Monday, winning comfortably against his Greek opponent. Giving away a lot in height, weight and strength, he fought his way to the final on Friday, eventually losing to a German fighter, with the Bantry man not helped by rolling his ankle in the final round. Still, Stephenson won a European silver medal and became the first fighter from Ireland in his discipline to qualify for the European Games.
Deirdre Connolly was the first West Cork fighter in action at the championships. While her best effort was not enough to win she will draw comfort that she lost to the eventual winner from Poland, and someone she has beaten previously. Greg Sheehan started with a win against his Azerbaijan opponent and went on to beat a well-fancied Turkish fighter in the quarter-finals but lost to a very good Polish fighter in the semi-finals, who went on to win gold in the final. Sheehan still came home with a bronze medal.
Hannah Green started her journey to the final on Tuesday and after beating fighters from England and Turkey, found herself in the final up against the reigning World and European champion. Despite Hannah's best efforts the Dutch girl had too much experience, and won. This was Hannah's first senior European championship and she will draw a lot of encouragement in getting to a final, boosted too by her silver medal.
Overall, a great achievement for West Cork Kickboxing Club with three medals from the European senior kickboxing championships and a first qualification for Stephenson for the 2023 European Games in Poland.