Heila, 9, becomes UK karate champion

AN Emersons Green girl is celebrating becoming a national sporting champion at the age of nine.

Heila Stearman won gold in the UK Go-Kan-Ryu Karate Finals in Sheffield, becoming the under-10 national champion.

The Mangotsfield Primary School pupil triumphed in the knockout national tournament after winning her way through qualifiers and regional finals.

Dad Darryl said Heila took up the sport about two and a half years ago at the age of seven, and has thrived on the concentration and self-discipline required.

He said the family were looking for activities as lockdown finished and when Heila tried karate at Emersons Green Village Hall she discovered she had a flair for the sport.

She now trains up to four times a week, travelling to Filton, Patchway and Lockleaze in addition to the sessions in Emersons Green.

Darryl said: “She enjoys the opportunity to show a level of excellence and has already helped teach adults what to do.

“To see your nine-year-old with adults responding to what she teaches them is amazing.

“They respect each other based on what they can do, not how old they are.”

At home Heila practises for several hours each week, trying moves repeatedly until they are perfect for the judges.

Darryl said the hardest thing to practise was the kumite or grappling aspect of the sport, as it requires an adversary.

Heila will face new challenges after she turns 10 in January, as she will move up into a new age group.

Darryl said: “She will have to bout with girls up to three years older than her, but her instructor in Filton has confidence she can win the UK championship in that age group.”

There is also the possibility that Helia could take part in the sport’s world championships in Sydney next year.

But for now she is still celebrating her national win.

Heila said: “I’m most proud that I’ll have the UK Championships win for the rest of my life.”