Karate kid looking for gold

firstthe debate is “Do women have a place in sports?”

Now, the conversation has shifted to “Do women have a place in combat sports?”

For 18-year-old Joy Emeka, the debate didn’t disappoint. Although her father’s insistence once put her off, she has now set her sights on the award and is determined to achieve her goals in karate.

A master karate master, Emeka has been learning karate since she was 10 years old and has strong support from her mother, who even took her out of school so she could compete.

In an interview with PUNCH Sports Extra, Joy said she started learning karate out of curiosity.

“Teacher Henry (her coach) lives in the same yard as us and he trains a lot. I was curious and asked him what sport he was training; then he introduced the sport to me and my friend and gave us An opportunity to train. Then I started coming to train every day, when I was in fifth grade.” Of course, she had her doubts, she admitted.

“I stopped training for a while because I thought it was too difficult and painful. I started playing tennis but didn’t stick to it and went back to karate.”

Talking about how her mother was her biggest cheerleader and her father didn’t want it, she said: “My mother supported me but my father said I didn’t need to do it, I already had muscles and when I walked I also walk fast, I should walk like a girl. That’s one of the reasons I stopped training at that time.

“My mom always urged me to go to training. One day they were playing and she came to my school and my mom came and told my principal to let me go to the competition.”

Joy’s love for karate came from the strength it gave her and the guidance of her coach Henry.

“Karate gave me more strength; in other sports I tried, I didn’t get support, like tennis, and I was angry. In karate though, I have a coach who can help me improve and get better. ”

The 18-year-old combat sports athlete has won two bronze medals in six events at the National Sports Festival in 2019 and 2021.

Interestingly, Ngozi Okoro of Anambra, who knocked her out in two matches, went on to win gold at the 2021 National Sports Festival in Benin.

“When the game was about to start, I was scared. I was also scared of meeting a lady from Anambra who kept knocking me out. Even though I won all the games, when I met her, no matter where I was She knocks me out any round I meet her. She’s 20 years old, in my weight range, I’ve met her in all six fights, and she’s the only one who knocks me out.”

However, she is working to end Okoro’s dominance.

“That’s why I’m training hard for the next game in September. I was going to go to class now to prepare for the upcoming exams, but because of my desire, I’m training here.”

She hasn’t won a gold medal yet, but she’s anxiously awaiting the day when she’ll get her champion’s medal.

“I can’t wait for the day I get the gold medal,” she said. “I want to be popular and represent Nigeria in international competitions like the Olympics. If I go to the Olympics, I know I can win because I start training very early.”

Henry is optimistic that his athletes can become world champions in the near future.

“Joey is a potential world class athlete. She has been with me since she was 10 years old and she has been competing in different competitions since then. She has had the privilege of participating in the Youth Games and the National Sports Festival and has won a bronze medal . Now, we’re trying to take her to the next level,” he said.

Joy is now training for the Zainab Salem Open Women’s Karate Championships at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos in September.

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