Teenager O’Brien set for Taekwondo debut

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Former karate prospect Emelye O’Brien is relishing her Taekwondo debut at this weekend’s French Open in Paris.

Teenager O’Brien joined the Manchester-based Academy earlier this year as one of 14 graduates in a new Fighting Chance Talent ID initiative.

Last month the group’s progress was assessed and the 19-year-old from Bradford was among those who was chosen to remain.

“I have never felt so scared at a meeting in my life,” said O’Brien, one of 13 athletes competing in the French capital today. “I couldn’t get my words out.

“It was the most nerve wracking thing I have ever done. So, it was the best feeling ever when Gary Hall (GB Performance Director) told me I had been successful.

“I have more adapting to do because I am no where near the finished article,” said O’Brien, who joins Londoner Isobella McNeish fighting in the -57kg division. “But I feel like I have progressed since moving over from a different sport.”

O’Brien, a former European karate gold medallist, took up martial arts at the age of four. “I was really shy as a kid, even more than I am now,” laughed O’Brien.

“My dad, Shaun, took me because he was into karate. I remember I used to go and cling to his leg.”

The French Open A Class tournament is her biggest event since joining the Academy.

“The aim now is to build up my rankings points and start being able to medal. I don’t want it to take too long.”

Other Yorkshire interest today sees Doncaster’s Bradly Sinden fight in the 5-58kg category, while Bradford’s Jacob Barnett goes in the -74kg section.

Also looking to end her competitive year on a high note is County Durham’s Jade Slavin in the +73kg division.