Veteran kickboxer Gary Wilkinson and four of his students from the Bulwell and Alfreton-based Genesis Kickboxing Academy have qualified to fight for England in this year’s WMO World Championship in Portugal in September.
The qualifying quintet is a new club record for the finals, eclipsing the four members that went to Dublin last year.
At 67, Gary is still giving away a few years in the Over-48 category but, with three past world titles under his belt, is confident he can again compete with the best, qualifying by winning the Veterans British Championship.
Ashley King, 21, will be defending his Light Continuous -76k world title he landed in Dublin, since having won the National Championships too.
Kayleigh Walsh, 15, will head for Portugal thanks to a national silver, while Bulwell’s Ryan Jarvis, 11, made it through by winning the European Championships in May and Gary’s grandson Alexander Pieniaszek, 10, qualified by winning his European Championships category.
Alexander also won a silver medal in Dublin last time around while Ryan and Kayleigh are making their debuts on the world stage.
“We are part of a squad of about 125-130 for England so we are only a small part of it,” said Gary. “But I am very proud of them all. You never know how things will go. But you have to be optimistic and I would like to see us all place in the first three.
“We are going there to win, not just make the numbers up. We are going there to give a good account of ourselves.
“Myself and Ashley have a good chance of gold and we will just have to see what the youngsters go.
“It always depends which person turns up. You have to be in the right frame of mind.”
Gary now trains his club two nights at week at the Bulwell Academy and three in Alfreton at the Genesis Centre.
Yet he only began kickboxing at the age of 50.
“I only started it for fitness,” he said. “It wasn’t to be competing or instructing.
“But I have always been competitive in sports – football, cricket, basketball. The competitive side just took over and it developed from there.
“Now I’ve won three world championships and a few silvers. You tend to downplay these things, but at the same time, if you sit back and realise what you’ve done you’ve got to feel pretty good about it really.”