GINA Bene-Hamill is a teenage taekwondo star in the making, and she hopes to follow up a trip to the home of the sport later this year with future appearances at the Olympics.

But the 15-year-old, who has learned her trade at Horizon Taekwondo Keighley, is currently battling with the latest setback of her young career.

If the Covid-19 outbreak and Horizon’s Keighley base at Dalton Mills burning down in 2022 affected the whole club, this one is very much personal.

Gina suffered a concussion last October, meaning her career has had to stall, for her own safety.

She has therefore not been able to fight for seven months, but has remained positive, and with her training stepping up, we should see her back on the mat taking down opponents in no time.

The Keighley News caught up with Gina last Friday, after she was named Young Sportswoman of the Year at the Bradford Sports Awards.

Speaking to us just moments after being on stage to collect her trophy, she said: “It’s nice to be recognised here.

“It’s so different to when I’m at taekwondo, and it’s good to dress up nicely and have this enjoyable part after working so hard.”

Rick Simpson, his wife Natalie Simpson-Kidd and his best friend Rooji Karim founded Horizon in 2013 and the club has gone from strength to strength, now boasting 12 clubs across Britain.

The former two are hugely dedicated to the Keighley branch, and Gina knows how lucky she is to have the husband and wife in their corner.

She said: “They support me so much, they’re always wanting to help me and encourage me.

“They work hard to get me better and to get me to where I want to be.”

Keighley News: Gina Bene-Hamill with Natalie Simpson-Kidd after winning a gold medal in Manchester in 2022, which qualified her for the Cadet World Championships.Gina Bene-Hamill with Natalie Simpson-Kidd after winning a gold medal in Manchester in 2022, which qualified her for the Cadet World Championships. (Image: Horizon Taekwondo.)

Gina is not the only child prodigy at Horizon Keighley either, with Sam Taylor, Muhammad "Hadi" Ejaz and Yvie Ling-Hegarty also making waves on the world stage.

The success of the quartet benefits each individual, with Gina saying: “We work together and train with each other.

“We’re all so competitive against one another, that makes us all better, so then we’re ready for fighting in competitions.”

Gina, who trains in Keighley but is from Pudsey, has fought out in Bulgaria at the Cadet World Championships, but she hopes that is just the start of her journey at international level.

She said: “I’m working towards the Junior Worlds this year in Korea, which is where taekwondo is from.

“And I’d love to go to the Olympics in the future, it’s definitely on my bucket list.”

Those Junior World Championships take place in Chuncheon in October, but Gina’s preparation for the biggest event in her career yet has been far from ideal.

She explained: “I’ve had a concussion that’s lasted since October until now and I’m still suffering from it.

“I’m just working as hard as I can to adapt my training so I can get back to it as soon as I can without anything getting worse.

“I can’t fight at the moment, bit I’m gradually doing more and more.

“I’m doing body contact at the moment and I’m working towards fighting fully soon.”

Gina has dealt admirably with this setback, with that attitude having served her well when Covid-19 threatened to derail her progress back in 2020.

She recalled: “During lockdown, we had Zoom calls twice daily, doing training.

“We came back so strong from that, because we didn’t miss out on much, other than the fighting part.

“With all the training, we came back just as fit, and it was so good to be able to do all that stuff online.”

Charity football team Craven For Change had success at the Bradford Sports Awards too, winning the Club/Team Amateur Performance award.

Keighley News: Craven For Change celebrating their success on Friday night.Craven For Change celebrating their success on Friday night. (Image: Thomas Gadd.)

Bradford Keighley & Skipton Disability Athletics were also rewarded at the event. 

The organisation took home the Club/Team Amateur Participation prize and member Shannon Cairney won Young Disability Sportswoman of the Year.