Forge Sport Editor Ed McCosh sits down with University of Sheffield student and Cypriot karate star Panayiotis Loizides.
How did you first get involved in karate?
I first got involved with karate at the age of five, due to the fact that my mother believed that I should learn how to protect myself. However, when I managed to succeed in joining the pre-national team of Cyprus and competed in international championships abroad, I managed to see the real beauty of the sport at a level that was far greater than my own. From the age of 15 onwards, I trained almost every day for three to four hours, and now at the age of 22, I have managed to become a member of the Cyprus Men’s karate national and Olympic team even though for the last year I have trained in England. I travel to many countries for competitions, meeting new people and every time making friends.
To what degree have you been involved in karate at the University of Sheffield?
The University doesn’t have a karate society or a karate team. However I belong to the ESPS team of the University and I follow fitness training sessions with the teams coach.
What national university competitions have you competed in whilst at Sheffield?
I competed in this year’s BUCS karate championship. I managed to get the bronze medal in a section of more than 50 people. However I was not satisfied with my performance especially in the semi-final round, which lead me to lose the gold medal, which was my target.
Has your degree impacted on your training schedule or ability to train at all?
Yes it does! I study Mechanical Engineering which is a very demanding module, especially if you try to get high grades. This is what keeps me at a semi-professional level at the moment. However I try my best and push myself very hard in both training and studying, so I can progress and reach my dreams. It is my choice however, to be in this situation, since I like my module a lot and I also appreciate that education and especially my module will make me a better person in all perspectives.
What assessment would you give the quality of karate at this university, and in Britain as a whole?
As I said before the University does not have a karate team. However I take the train all the way to Steeton and Silsden every day and train with a former world karate champion Paul Newby. My new coach has helped me reach a level that allowed me to win the English National Championship in April. The level of karate in Britain is always high, as evidenced by the fact it produces World and European champions. I want to take the chance and thank my coach Paul Newby who helps inspire, and push me selflessly every day. He is the best coach that someone can get and I feel blessed for having him.
How did it feel to represent Cyprus at the European Games in Baku this year?
This was the greatest achievement in my career so far and I can say that I never felt happier in my life. All of the sacrifices and effort I put in finally paid of as I saw my self standing among Europe’s top eight karate athletes.
How do you feel about your Baku experience?
The whole organization was terrific. Everything was very professional and beautiful. The best highlight for me was the glorious opening ceremony that made me shudder. It was nice being among the best athletes in Europe from all the different sports.
What are your future aspirations with regards to karate?
The situation in England has helped me to feel very optimistic about the future. My future goals are to win medals in European and World karate Championships which is something that no Cypriot athlete has managed to achieve so far. However, I want to enjoy every single step of this journey as much as I can and learn as many things as possible, hoping that all the difficulties I face will only make me a better person.
Would you recommend the karate society to University of Sheffield freshers?
There is no karate society in the University however if there was one, I would strongly recommend it to everyone as karate is an extremely broad martial art that covers almost everything such as punching, kicking, blocking, take downs and grappling very efficiently in terms of humans body physiology. It is also a very functional and broad fitness workout.
What more can be done at the university to improve the number of opportunities to partake in karate – should it be a varsity sport?
Yeah I strongly believe that it should become a Varsity sport as soon as there is a karate society in both Universities. This will introduce karate to the rest of the students that don’t know anything about it.