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Leonie is on top of the world after striking gold in Russia
10:43am Thursday 20th September 2012 in Sport
SIXTEEN-year-old Grange Park girl Leonie Hardman has made history by becoming the first member of the Great Britain Muay Thai team to take World Championship gold.
The Carmel College student beat off tough competition against girls older than her en route to taking the top prize at the IFMA World Championship held in St Petersburg.
Leonie kept a cool head and stuck to her game plan to beat Turkey’s Sezer Tugce the final of the Junior 51 kg category and claim a historic gold.
The glistening medal and number one ranking is a deserved reward for the six-and-a-half days training she has put in at the Supergym base in Knutsford.
A delighted Leonie said: “I knew I could do it but did not expect to win.
“It was a hard fight but after the second round the coach said to me, ‘You have got it. Keep doing what you are doing.
‘Don’t do anything stupid, be clever and don’t get caught and the fight is yours.’ “I was delighted to win – so much so that I cried.
“I have trained really hard for this – only having half a day or occasionally a day off training for it.
“Now I am just aiming to keep winning – keep my number one spot and hopefully think about go pro next year or the year after.”
It was Leonie’s first big tournament abroad and as such it helped that her coach Ric Barnhill was able to travel over with the team.
However, it did take a big effort to fund that 12 day stay in Russia, which involved her mum Tracy and her work colleagues at Alexandra Court doing a sponsored walk from Thatto Heath to Liverpool.
“It was my first big tournament abroad. I was nervous about that but more so about performing, but Ric said you have worked so hard in the gym, you are fit enough so go and show what you can do.
“I don’t think I could have won it if Ric hadn’t been there. So I should say a massive thanks to the people who helped raise sponsorship and to UKMF who funded me to go.”
Her experienced coach, who has European K1 Super Welterweight titles to his own name, was delighted to see his protégé succeed.
He said: “It is the first British gold medallist out of every championship we have attended so it is a really big achievement.
“I knew she had a chance even though she was the most inexperienced of all the girls in her category and she met the two strongest in her weight.
“The final was close but she stuck to her game plan. She knew she was faster and scoring a lot better than her opponent.
“Basically I put her success down to listening. She is a smart girl and listened to everything in that corner.
“Not everyone can follow what you say, but she had that ability and she followed that in the ring.
“In the Junior category – all the other girls 17.
“She was naturally one of the smaller girls in her weight but talent wise she is superb.
“It was her first fight abroad and the experience of being away for 12 days with the Great Britain team will have taught her a lot.”