Sunderland Sports Coaching student Ryan Spencer picked up a silver medal for his country at the European Karate Championships in Greece.
Ryan was part of the four-man KUGB England karate team who took Silver in the Team Kumite age 18-20, with Russia landing the Gold after a very close fight. He also came 5th in the Individual Kumite age 18-20.
The 19-year-old’s achievement is all the more remarkable, as he has been living with a rare bone condition Hereditary Multiple Exostoses (HME) for almost 11 years, which sees lumps growing on his bones and affects just one in every 50,000 people.
During his previous trips to the Championships in 2015 and 2016, he also won a silver medal.
The University of Sunderland student, from Ouston, Chester-le-Street, County Durham, said: “We fought very well against Russia, who are tough opponents to beat, and it went to an extra fight to determine who the winner would be.
“I personally felt it went really well, winning the silver is such a huge achievement, especially given the number of teams who were competing from across Europe, it’s a very hard competition as every fight you’re in – you’re fighting the best from their country!
“It was truly a privilege to stand on the podium with my teammates and represent my country.”
Former Lord Lawson pupil Ryan, a second year Sport Coaching student, dedicates at least six hours a week to karate training with instructor John James Bruce at Sendai Kushio Karate Club, based in CitySpace, the University’s CitySpace . For the past four years, Ryan has been selected by the Karate Union of Great Britain to represent his country. As well as training in Sunderland, Ryan also trains with the England squad in Liverpool nine times a year. He’s also now training to compete in the World Championships in Italy next year.
Ryan, who hopes to become a PE teacher after University, says: “The bone condition bothers me sometimes, but I have got the mind set to forget about it because I want to be the best that I can be.”
Ryan is also the Youth Chair for the HME Support Group and his mother Christine is the Chair, and has retired Commonwealth Games Gold medal winning gymnast, and BBC Tumble judge, Craig Heap as its Patron.
Ryan said: “I want to be able to show young people that although they may have a disability they can do sport and achieve despite their limitations.”
Ryan has had to undergo four painful operations since he was first diagnosed at the age of eight.
His proud mum Christine “Ryan just gets on with things and he’s keen on showing other members of the group that sport can be accessible for everyone, no matter what issues you may have.”
Speaking about his Sports Coaching course, Ryan said: “I love the course, one of my favourite aspects of the teaching is finding out more about anatomy and biomechanics and how this can aid my personal development in sport.”
Ryan is also a member of the University’s Elite Athlete Scheme, which is designed to assist students who perform at a high level in either a sporting team or an individual sport, whilst studying at Sunderland. The scheme is designed to help students achieve both their academic and sporting potential, recognising the commitment that is required to reach a high level of sport.
Claire Donohue, Programme Leader for BSc Sports Coaching, said: “Ryan’s fantastic achievement whilst coping with health issues is a testament to the dedication he displays both to his training and University studies, and with continued dedication will continue to excel in his Karate achievements and sports coaching programme.”