A student from Kidderminster is bidding for gold having been selected to represent England at this summer's European Karate Championships in Frankfurt.
Sam Thomas, age 21, has been honing her skills as a martial artist since the age of 4, and her dedication has been rewarded with a call up to the national squad.
Starting young, Sam admits her family have been a big influence on her career thus far. "My parents are both sporty. They always wanted me to be active and try different things: karate, piano, ballet; I was always busy, but karate has always been my number one passion," she said. "My dad is a martial artist, but I love karate so much I'd have done it even if he wasn't involved."
Sam, who has just completed her degree in Physical Education & English at the University of Worcester, trains six days a week and says her success is down to hard work. "Talent is important, but I think the best martial artists are those who train really hard, never miss a lesson, and commit themselves fully," she said. "If they don't win, they come back harder and try again. Those are the ones that succeed, and that's the way I try to approach the sport.
"I am in the gym six days a week working on my fitness, and then I have three sessions a week working on my skills in the dojo, as well as one England squad camp a month. It's a lot of work, but I love it in the dojo. You can leave any worries about work outside and lose yourself in your training."
The European Karate Championships start in Frankfurt on Saturday, June 25th.
"I'm really excited about going to Frankfurt with the squad," Sam said. "I watched some of the last Euros on YouTube and they look amazing " street parades, big crowds, a real spectacle. Kind of like our Olympics. I'm looking forward to testing myself on that stage, and to competing in front of those crowds."
"I love meeting new people from different clubs, and the comradery is fantastic," she added. "Even though we know we may end up fighting each other in the Euros, everyone is still really supportive and friendly."
Sam is due to graduate from the University of Worcester this autumn and has a place secured on a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) at Worcester for next year, to train as a Primary School teacher. She is hoping to be able to take her passion for karate in to the classroom. "I love teaching. I coach two days a week at my dojo - Young Gloves in Kidderminster " and I really enjoy that: the enthusiasm of the students, and passing on my passion to them. They call me Sensei Sam," she said. "I'd like to teach karate in schools " only light contact of course. It's so good for young people. Karate is usually something new in schools; it's also great for building confidence and self-esteem, which are so important at a young age."