THE first time he went to a karate lesson Alex Gardner started blubbing.
He was six then. “I didn’t want to get hurt,” he says.
He’s come some way since. Last week he became the first Englishman to win a medal at the sport’s under-21 European Championship. He took a bronze in Turkey.
And here’s the clever bit – there was still no danger of him getting hurt.
Alex, you see, specialises in kata, a version of karate where competitors don’t fight head to head but perform a routine where the most powerful and aesthetically pleasing wins.
“Sort of like a dance,” says the 20-year-old Sheffield Hallam University sports science student.
But, before the second dan black belt gives us the chop, we should make clear he does the fighting stuff too.
In fact he’s currently the British University champion, and was defending that title at Ponds Forge this weekend.
“Winning bronze in Turkey was unbelievable,” says Alex. “I’m now ranked 12th in the world but I can get better. The championship is in Portugal next year and I want to improve.”
Not bad for a Swinton kid, now living in Harland Road, Sheffield, who only got into the sport because older sister Chloe was taking lessons.
“She could probably still beat me in a fight,” he notes.