Recently, Grace competed in the Karate Youth Premier League in Venice in Italy; a competition which sees around 4,000 athletes from over 81 countries competing for the top spot. Grace believes she is the first English, female, Shotokan athlete to make it through to the second round of a World Karate Federation (WKF) international competition.
The 20-year-old from Wigan said: “The competition is for the best of the best from across the world. When you walk out into the packed arena you can’t explain the feeling that comes over you. The years of training, setbacks and determination all come down to moments like this and it’s something that you never forget.”
Grace has been training in martial arts for over 13 years, starting in primary school initially due to her low confidence. Her Dad used to train when he was younger and promised Grace he would start again with her as a beginner. The dynamic duo worked their way through the grades and are now both senior instructors and ranked third Dan Black Belt. Grace’s younger sister Izzy also represents the English Karate Team and competed alongside her older sibling in Venice. Karate clearly runs in the Baron genes and Grace describes Izzy as “a fantastic young athlete in her own right”.
Confidence is no longer an issue for this sporting trailblazer. Since starting out as a complete beginner, she has gone on to representing the JKS England karate team where she won world and European titles and now represents the English Karate Federation’s National Team, a pathway for top Olympic athletes. Grace has also been a Sensei instructor for the past four years and a Cadet leader for 10 years.
Competing in the under-21 female Kata category, the second year BSc Sports Coaching student made it through to the second round of the international competition. While she didn’t win, Grace made an incredible progression for English Shotokan athletes on the international stage. She only missed out on going into the third round by just 0.2 of a point.
Among the hundreds of competitors in the same age category, many of whom are paid athletes or are sponsored by their national teams or governments, Grace has now been ranked 92nd in the world, and finished 25th in her category of 76 in Venice.
Grace added: “I’d just like to say thank you to the Scholarship Team and for the support from the University in allowing me to make English karate history, not only for myself but also in allowing me to show other competitors in my position that they too can achieve on the international stage.”
The scholarship helped Grace to fund her travel, entry fees and accommodation for the competition, something which she might have struggled with as a full-time student.
Grace has big ambitions for after graduation – she is hoping to work in elite sport as a performance coach though her ultimate goal is to work in Formula 1 as a driver and team performance coach, combining her love of travel, sports and the outdoors.
Find out more about the scholarships available at Edge Hill University.
January 15, 2024