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Martial arts: Deeside ace Ryan Coney shows true grit to earn Black Belt of the Year crown as club grows in strength

RYAN Coney has proved himself to be a real tough nut after earning the Junior Black Belt of the Year title at Deeside Tae Kwon-do Club.

The 11-year-old from Hawarden is already a black belt after just six years in the sport and this year added a clutch of gold medals to his collection of awards.

But it is a silver that underlined the mental strength of this young warrior.

In November, the Hawarden High School pupil was scheduled to take part in the British Championships in Telford.

But he developed a hip problem and had to spend three days in hospital receiving treatment in the week leading up to the competition.

Nevertheless he decided to compete and he dug deep to return home having reached the final and earned a silver medal.

Then in December he went to the Welsh Championships in Newport and won three gold medals.

Those achievements saw his clubmates, including father Ian who has only recently received his own black belt, vote him Junior Black Belt of the Year out of the 40 junior fighters eligible at the Deeside Leisure Centre-based club.

Deeside chief instructor Darren Richardson said: “Ryan is such a star. When he was in hospital before the British Championships his determination carried him through. He is such a great student.”

Ryan is not the only success story at Deeside Tae Kwon-do Club.

The organisation has a blossoming pool of young talent that is making swift progress through the grading structure of the Korean martial art.

Brothers Robert and Graham Shone have also been making waves for the club.

Eight-year-old Robert has just passed his black belt having joined the club’s under six section, the Tigers, aged just three to train with coach Amanda Richardson.

Before he was five Robert had learned all the skills required to move up into the next age-group and his potential has carried through.

Now his younger brother Graham, aged three-and-a-half, has just joined the Tigers and already passed three club gradings on his quest to become a black belt

“Robert is an asset to my club,” said Richardson. “It proves achievement is not down to age, it’s down to hard work and having a good family and friends to back you up and to encourage hard work.”

For Robert, the honour of a black belt comes with the responsibility to set an example at the club, something he relishes.

“I am very happy that, as a black belt, I can now help others in the club,” he said.

“I am still training hard and hoping to learn new skills that will take me towards my second degree black belt.”

That journey will take around four more years but in the meantime Robert will try to pass his skills on to others starting out at the club.