Two sisters from Hucknall who were bullied at school are now on the brink of becoming world champions in kickboxing.
The remarkable story of Josie and Lucie Callan, of Oakenhall Avenue, began three years ago in the playground at Broomhill Junior School.
“They were being bullied so badly, it got to the stage where they were frightened to go to school,” recalled dad Garry (50).
“They were sobbing themselves to sleep, so we had to do something about it,
“I tried talking to the teachers, but they just said they had an anti-bullying policy, so there was no way they could have been bullied. I tried talking to other parents, but that almost ended in a brawl.”
In desperation, Garry took Josie (now 14) and Lucie (now 11) to a boxing club at Wollaton.
“They really enjoyed it, especially the skipping element, and it has gone from there,” he said.
The sisters progressed to kickboxing and joined the Hucknall Town club for a while.
Spells at clubs in Sheffield and Newark followed before the girls’ careers took off when they were paired with renowned coach and professional middleweight boxer Matt Hainy.
The 31-year-old Hainy runs sessions across the county, including in Hucknall and Bulwell, under the umbrella of Midlands1Kickboxing, which preaches “fun, fitness and discipline”.
Now the sisters have won British and English titles in their age and weight categories, beating top-notch opponents, and they are in training for the world championships, to be held in Bulgaria in October.
Meanwhile Josie, who now goes to Holgate School, and Lucie, who is in her last year at Broomhill, suffer no more problems with bullying.
“They were both quite placid children, shy and withdrawn and not ones for playing games in the playground,” explained Garry.
“But kickboxing has filled them with confidence. Now they are extremely happy. It has changed their lives.
“Matt has coached some of the best in England, and he is exceptional. The girls had won fights before, but since joining Matt, their fighting skills have improved completely.”
So much so that when they entered the English Championships in Birmingham last month, Josie won a silver medal and Lucie gold, qualifying them for the worlds.
The sisters have a younger brother, Kyle, who is also keen on kickboxing. And all three owe a lot to the support of their mum Lynn (nee Burrows) and dad Garry, who owns the well-regarded Orchard Care Home on Papplewick Lane, Hucknall.
Indeed they seem to have inherited their competitive edge and enthusiasm for keeping fit from Garry, who was a talented boxer during his four years in the Army between 1979 and 1983.
“I was always committed to being fit and used to run ten miles a night,” recalled Garry.
“Now I have bought a log cabin, which I have set up in our back garden, for the girls to use as a training gym. They are really fit. They run four miles a night, five nights a week, and both can do seven-minute miles.”
The Callan team, who fight under the banner Torkard Kickboxing, enjoyed more success last Saturday when the girls defended their British titles in a show at Blackburn. They had to face rivals who were bigger, heavier and older. And although Lucie suffered a controversial defeat, Josie produced the performance of her life to win.
“Lucie was not given a fair fight and was on the receiving end of some illegal moves, which the referee did nothing about,” said Garry.
“But Josie absolutely outclassed and destroyed her opponent, who couldn’t even land one punch or kick during the five rounds. She was too fast and has a great chance now of winning in Bulgaria. Wouldn’t it be nice to come back to Hucknall with a world title? It doesn’t get any better than that.”