THIS SEASON'S Welsh Karate League was brought to a successful conclusion last Sunday when the long-awaited WKL Grand Finals took place at Penarth Leisure Centre.
The Welsh Karate League is a series of competitions, run by some of Wales' most experienced and respected instructors, aimed at giving Wales' grass roots competitors a platform to develop their talents.
Throughout the previous 12 months, competitors and coaches from 19 clubs across Wales have come together to compete at eight friendly inter-club competitions, accumulating points along the way to eventually find the champion of champions in each category.
Vale Karate, based at Barry's YMCA Hub, have been in dominant form all season and no fewer than 13 of their squad were top of their category rankings going into the Grand Final, and eager to finally be crowned a WKL Champion of Champions!
Georgia Hellerman has been dominant this season, and with a 5 point lead at the top of the Under 8 Kata category, literally needed only to show up to be crowned Champion of Champions. She cemented her status with 3 points earned by winning a bronze medal.
Team mate Chiara Baker has improved considerably over the previous months and won her third WKL title of the year, edging herself into second place on the overall ranking. Paige Pesticcio-Croll of Kansei Karate was second on the day.
Christopher Slack had an impressive 9 point lead at the top of the Under 10 Novice Kata section, he progressed to the final to meet team-mate Harrison Williams. The decision went Harrison's way, to secure him second place on the final ranking.
Harrison later went on to win his fifth WKL Kumite event this season, earning a Double on the day and his own Champion of Champions trophy!
The all-round ethos which is central to Vale Karate's mission was demonstrated several times during the finals.
Kloe Christoforato has achieved the Kata and Kumite 'Double' at the last three League events, and again reached the finals of both her U12 Kata and Kumite categories, meeting team-mate Alexandra Slack on both occasions! Kloe was victorious in the Kata, but Alexandra upset the odds in the Kumite, taking her first such title of the year.
Kloe had been 3 points clear at the top of both her categories, so courtesy of her 5 and 4 point winning performances, emerged as a double Champion of Champions.
Surprise upset of the day was when Kate Beeslee, making her debut at this season's events, beat Ewan Albright in the semi final of the U10 Advanced Kata and went on to earn the gold medal. This was Ewan's first Kata loss of this season's League.
Ewan has led the Individual Overall rankings since the beginning of the League season, and although under intense pressure from a host of squad mates in both his U10 Advanced Kata and Kumite categories, he was nevertheless a clear leader at the top of the table.
However he missed the WKL Wrexham competition which allowed Sam Cana of Swansea's Ken Bu Kan dojo to draw close.
With Sam winning both his events, and Ewan earning only 3 points in Kata, he needed to win his Kumite category in order to finish in joint first in the Overall Individual rankings. This he did with a win in the final over Josh Dwyer.
Josh, however, has done enough this season to finish top of the Kumite table. Josh is another great all-rounder as he demonstrated with his third place, alongside Ewan, in the Kata.
A battle royal has gone on all season between Emma Squire and Kansei's Thomas Kerslake in the Under 12 Novice Kata. Neither has been beaten by any other competitor!
Going into the final Emma was two points ahead. They met in the semi final, and it was perhaps completely just that Thomas earned the win to leave each young champion deservedly sharing the Champion of Champions spot.
Brad Christoforato was Vale Karate's clearest winner, taking first place in every one of this season's U14 Advanced Kata events. He also earned a top three finish in the season's Kumite ranking with the top spots going to youngsters from The Ken Bu Kan and Fairfield dojo's.
Leah Copeland was Vale Karate's last champion in action. Her crisp and precise Kata performances were in contrast to her all-action Kumite style and she added more silverware to the groaning trophy table with top spots in both the Advanced Ladies Kata and Kumite events.
With 1014 points, Vale Karate were the most successful club at this season's League, over 400 points ahead of Swansea's Ken Bu Kan in second place. Vale Karate's sister club Kansei, moved from fourth to third after a successful tournament. With Kansei instructor Andrew Kanias untroubled at the top of the Men's Kata rankings.
The Vale Karate squad are now looking forward to two major events in April - the WKGB Welsh Championships and the Scottish International Open.