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World tae kwon do silver for Stephen Ryan

Winning a silver medal at the recent world championships in Wellington in New Zealand was Stephen Ryan’s greatest individual success to date in tae kwan do. He picked up the medal in the senior male patterns 4th to 6th dan category.
A native of Clooney and the head instructor at the Quin Taekwando Club, Stephen has been involved in the sport for the past 20 years.
A 5th dan black belt and a member of the teaching staff at St Joseph’s in Tulla, he was given a heroes welcome when he returned to Shannon Airport.
In addition to his silver medal individual success, he also came home with a bronze medal that he won in the team sparring competition
The world championships are held every two years. In 2009, the event was held in Argentina where Stephen won two bronze medals.
“There were a number of Clare competitors at the Argentina championships. Louise McCagh won three medals at that event. In New Zealand she competed at senior level for the first time. Jamie Willians competed in the junior team event in New Zealand and he won a bronze medal, while Adrian Byrne travelled as a national coach and all three are members of the Shannon club,” Stephen told The Clare Champion.
“I developed an interest in tae kwan do from television and I started out in the Ennis club. When I started, I didn’t know the difference between any of the martial arts. I was lucky to choose this one,” Stephen added.
Ryan’s biggest success prior to this was at the 2003 world championships in Poland where he won two gold medals in team events.
“I have been competing at European and world championships over the last ten years and this is the first time that I have won a medal in an individual event.”
In the final in New Zealand, Stephen lost out to the current world champion. “He is from Poland, one of the strongest countries in tae kwan do. His win was his fifth world title. There was nothing in it and I was delighted to take silver,” the Clooney man said.
Looking ahead, Stephen is now preparing for the European championships in Slovakia in October.
“I expect that there will be a much bigger Irish squad going there. A lot of guys couldn’t get to New Zealand due to work commitments and costs. I will have to go through a selection process to get to the Slovakian event,” Stephen added.
“Our funding from the Sports Council is minute in comparison to other sports associations. We get very little but I hope that the situation will improve as we are improving our structures all the time and we are raising our profile.
“Those who represent Ireland are athletes and they train like any other athletes but they have jobs to hold down as well. I have to fit in training in the mornings before I go to work and then again in the evenings. I train a lot on my own,” he explained before paying tribute to the management and staff at St Joseph’s where he teaches.
While particularly pleased with his individual success, Stephen was also proud of his bronze medal achieved in the team sparring.
“There are six guys on a team and they can be of any weight category. It’s very much tactical. To get bronze here was a great achievement for Ireland as we would be one of the smaller nations at this level.”
“Over the last few years, tae kwan do has become better known and very popular. We have been doing a lot to try and raise the profile. It will continue to grow,” Stephen concluded.

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