One of the world’s top young karate competitors graduated from Edge Hill University today with a degree in BA (Hons) Sports Development and Management.

Natalie Payne, 21 from Manchester, took up the sport at eight years old and is currently ranked fifth in the world at junior level and seventh in the world at senior level.

In 2011 Natalie and her fellow England teammates made history by becoming the first female English Junior Kata team to medal at a European Championship and she has gone on to achieve a number of gold medals since.

Natalie said:

“Edge Hill lecturers have been more than supportive of my sport. At first this was something I was nervous about as travelling for competitions requires taking time off, however staff allowed me to be flexible and are always interested to hear how I’ve done, and asking when my next competition is.”

Whilst studying at Edge Hill, she was awarded a Sports Scholarship which she used to help fund her participation in European and World Championships.

She said:

“Being awarded the scholarship has helped me more than you could know. Because karate is not yet a funded sport all expenses have to be paid for by either me or my parents, so the scholarship enabled me to keep studying and training without having to work, so I could focus on both.”

This year has seen Natalie compete in the European under 21 championships where she achieved fifth place for England. She currently holds silver British and English titles, and last year gained gold in both. She also recently travelled to Spain to compete for England and achieved a PB (personal best) in the senior category. She is currently working towards the Team GB selections next year.

Natalie also gives up her spare time to coach children with disabilities, and upon graduating she hopes to enter full-time employment within elite sport or disability sport.