It’s been an astonishing sporting journey for Sama Rahnama, the nine-year-old from the Edward Woods estate in Shepherds Bush who – competing against 11 and 12-year-olds – has won gold for Team GB.
Sama, who gained her first taekwondo belt when she was just two, received the gleaming first-place medal at the 2019 Pyeongchang World Taekwondo festival in South Korea.
Guided by her dad Mehdi, a taekwondo master and supported by fast-track funding from both Hammersmith & Fulham Council and Westfield London shopping mall – Sama’s local shopping centre – she performed brilliantly at the week-long event. Despite most of her fellow competitors having a three-year age advantage.
Dwarfed by the other medallists on the podium at the Yongpyong Dome, Sama proudly stood in her white ‘dobok’ competition uniform to receive her certificates and medals after junior performances that left her dad beaming with pride.
“Am I really the world champion?” she asked her father in disbelief.
With 58 different countries competing in the tournament, and a total of 4,798 participants, ranging in age from seven to 83, she won gold in the juniors’ long jump-kick breaking category – flying through the air and vaulting an obstacle, before completely splitting a pine wood plank with a side kick.
A party will be thrown in her honour back at the Edward Woods community centre in November where her father runs the Original Tai Kwon Do Club.
Sama became one of the youngest taekwondo black belts in the UK when she was seven, training at the Edward Woods community centre during the regular Wednesday evening sessions.
“She could kick and do some movements at the age of three, but I didn’t give her a grading until one day she asked me ‘Why is everyone else getting new belts but not me?’” said Mehdi.
“She surprised everyone,” he added. “Gradually, as she’s grown up, she’s got more and more confidence.”
Sama’s sporting idol is Jade Jones, the 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medallist in the women’s taekwondo 57kg category, and the reigning world champion. “She has a poster of Jade on her bedroom wall,” said Mehdi.
Cllr Larry Culhane, Cabinet Member for Children and Education, congratulated Sama by saying: “Sama’s hard work and determination is an example to us all, and we’re proud to support and salute our young gold medal winner.”
While Sama may still be a little young to take part in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, there’s always Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028 to aim for.
Local taekwondo clubs
If you’re interested in trying your hand at taekwondo, here are a few local options:
- Original Tai Kwon Do Club at Edward Woods Community Centre in Norland Road. Classes run every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 6.30-8pm.
- Kixstar Dragon TKD at 34 Haldane Road, Fulham, SW6 7EU
- Reflect CKD at various venues across Hammersmith & Fulham.
- NTC – London St Katherines at Phoenix Fitness Centre and Janet Adegoke Swimming Pool in Bloemfontein Road.
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