Battles and belief help win the cup
10:30am Thursday 1st November 2012 in Sport
A BARRY karate man has become the first Welshman in more than 20 years to win a prestigious British contest, having made his journey via Russia.
Twenty-nine-year-old Spencer Bennett has been declared the 36th British Open/4th cup of Europe champ - after competing at the event in Crawley, London.
The dad-of-one, a process operator at Dow Corning, fended off one of the competition's strongest fields - beating Spanish, Belgian, Bulgarian and, finally, Russian champions, and incorporating Timashiwari – board breaking - to earn first place on the rostrum.
Spencer, who helps run and trains at the Barry-based Rising Sun Kyokushin karate club with his brother, Lee, said: "The lead up to this tournament hadn’t gone to plan. "This time last year at the same tournament with a not as strong field I went out on boards in the quarter-finals. "With that defeat hanging over me I entered a professional tournament in Poland. "I had to withstand an extremely hard Hungarian fighter, losing after four extensions. "Although it was a bit of a knock back I actually gained respect in the international karate community. Great Britain selected Spencer to compete in another professional tournament in Russia's Arctic Circle in May this year. "I was drawn against the current world champion in the early rounds and was unfortunate," he said.
"I once again represented myself, but defeat was a bitter pill to swallow.
"With the world tournament next April approaching I had to finish in the top three in the British open/ 4th cup of Europe if I had any chance of winning. "This year’s field has been the strongest in 20 years. It attracted all the best fighters from across Europe.
"Going into this tournament with my confidence a bit dented, a win seemed unthinkable." He added: "I was the only British male fighter to get to the final. My opponent was the current Russian champion. "Having knocked out my one of my teammates in the previous rounds with a spinning kick to the head, I knew I had to keep my hands up. "The Russian was convinced he was going to over power me and walk through me to gain the title. "But my inner belief and power proved this wasn’t going to happen. "This fight went three rounds, we matched each other throughout the fight. "The last 30 seconds of the final round I upped the pace and gained the victory."