FORMER Royton and Crompton School student Natasha Watkins is a triple world champion at karate at the age of 16.
The Moorside teenager came away from the World Union of Karate Federation world championships in Dundee with three gold medals.
In an event that had 2,000 competitors from 41 countries, Natasha won the individual shobu ippon class for the 15/17 age category.
Natasha also joined up with Danielle Dunn and Ellie Bickerstaffe to win two team titles in the rotation ippon and shobu ippon, both in the 18/20 age category.
The successes were unexpected as Natasha’s training had been disrupted through her GCSE examinations.
Mother Vanessa explained: “In the month before the championships, Natasha didn’t train much – usually it is four times a week – and had been revising so didn’t go to the world championships with high expectations.
“She had her last exam on Friday morning and we shot off to Dundee in the afternoon.
“It was as though the pressure was off and Natasha went out and performed really well.
“We are very proud of her, she is very dedicated.
“What made the team successes so special was that Natasha was the youngest competitor, but she won it for them as no opponent scored against her.”
Natasha is at Ren Do Kai Club, Heywood, with sensei Marc Leacock, a seventh dan and also a coach with the England team.
She also trains with Peter Allen who is in charge of the England squad.
It was at Hodge Clough where Natasha took up karate aged eight at an after-school club.
It soon become apparent Natasha, who represented Hodge Clough at hockey, dodgeball, netball, water polo and cricket, was a special talent.
She joined a club in Rochdale and began competing aged 10 before joining up with Marc three years ago.
Vanessa says Natasha also did ballet and tap as a youngster, and that has helped with her flexibility when executing kicks.
Natasha is going to Oldham Sixth Form College in September to study for her A Levels. She has dreams of becoming a lawyer.
Vanessa added these are exciting times for karate which will make its debut at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, though they will be too soon for Natasha who is hoping it will remain an Olympic sport after that.
Natasha has competed overseas in Italy, Romania and Ireland, the latter in the world championships two years ago when she collected a silver medal aged 14 in the 15/17 individuals.
She has an international competition in Malta in October and another in the Czech Republic next summer.
But with no funding for the sport, Vanessa added it is a financial burden and they have to combine competitions with family holidays.
Anybody wishing to sponsor Natasha can email Vanessa: firstname.lastname@example.org