HORIZON Taekwondo Academy have more nominations than anyone at tonight’s Bradford Sports Awards, with coach Natalie Simpson-Kidd admitting they are “not just a club, but a family”.

She is up for Coach of the Year, with young protégé Gina Bene-Hamill nominated for Young Sportswoman of the Year.

Partially-sighted Steven Birkin is in the running for Volunteer of the Year, while Gail Watt, in her sixties, is up for the Active Lifestyle award, and Margaret Simpson, in her seventies, is in line to win the Special Recognition prize.

Add in the fact Horizon could win Amateur Performance and Amateur Participation honours, as well as the Sporting Highlight award, and it could be a golden night for them.

They have 12 clubs across the Bradford District and Greater Manchester, with their main hub in Keighley.

The Forward Mill venue on Golbourne Street is home to four of the Academy’s brightest stars, Bene-Hamill, Sam Taylor, Muhammad "Hadi" Ejaz and William Burleigh, who all competed at last year’s Cadet World Championships in Bulgaria and the European Cadet Championships in Malta.

Speaking about their Bradford Sports Awards recognition, Simpson-Kidd said: “It’s honestly mind-blowing.

“It’s really rewarding what we do and these nominations mean so much to the club as a whole.

“That’s the other instructors, the students and their parents, as without the latter supporting us we’d be nothing.

“We’ve not been told anything, so we don’t know exactly what our Sporting Highlight was, but we had four of Keighley’s Horizon athletes at the Worlds in Bulgaria and then the Europeans in Malta.

“That’s absolutely phenomenal given Team GB could only take 20 athletes to each of those two competitions.”

Bene-Hamill is the gold standard for young girls in Keighley and beyond looking to succeed in taekwondo.

A proud Simpson-Kidd said: “All I can say about her is wow.

“She works so hard, puts 100 per cent effort into everything she does and does all I ask of her.

“Gina has a good, supportive family too, who have her back, and they trust our judgement as coaches.

“She had a big injury just before competing in Bulgaria, and we didn’t know if she’d even be able to make it into the ring.

“But I sat with her and the Team GB physio to discuss her options and she insisted to me that she wanted to fight.

“I was fretting about her but when she got in the ring to fight, you’d never have known she was injured, and she won on her way to reaching the last-16.

“Yvie Ling-Hegarty (one of the other Young Sportswomen nominees) is from Keighley too, and she’s just joined Horizon.

“She does a different style, that isn’t Olympic taekwondo, but it’s really good for Gina to have her there, as another girl competing at a high level.”

Keighley News: Yvie Ling-Hegarty poses proudly with her gold and silver medals at the ITFU World Championships in Argentina last October.Yvie Ling-Hegarty poses proudly with her gold and silver medals at the ITFU World Championships in Argentina last October. (Image: UGC.)

As for her Coach of the Year nomination, Simpson-Kidd said: “It means a lot, because I live and breathe Horizon.

“I’m a national team coach for the Cadets and Under-21s too, so I work closely with lots of other kids around the country too.

“I’m surprised to have been nominated, but I’m honoured too.”

She is delighted to see Simpson be nominated for that Special Recognition prize too, saying: “Margaret’s my mother-in-law and she’s an absolute godsend.

“She supports everything that Rick (Natalie’s husband and chief instructor) and I do, as well as our own kids, who also compete here.

“Margaret turns up to classes every week, helps with everything I need, and she’s the one who sorts out all the parties for the kids at Christmas and Easter, as well arranging secret birthday cards.”

“She’s a massive part of the club.”

Keighley News: Margaret Simpson (right) became a black belt at the age of 61 in 2011, and is still going strong in the taekwondo world over a decade later.Margaret Simpson (right) became a black belt at the age of 61 in 2011, and is still going strong in the taekwondo world over a decade later. (Image: UGC.)

Another member of the more mature generation that stands out at Horizon is Active Lifestyle nominee Watt, with Simpson-Kidd saying: “She’s been part of the club for years, as her son used to train here a while ago, so she was always supportive of him.

“But a few years ago, Gail decided she wanted to train herself.

“She lost weight, got fit, and has won a few gold medals in patterns (poomsae) competitions, which is a series of movements involving punches, kicks and blocks.

“Her next step comes next month when she competes at a sparring competition.”

Horizon are equally supportive of young and old, and do not discriminate against anyone.

That has allowed Volunteer of the Year contender Birkin his chance to shine, with Simpson-Kidd saying: “Steve’s partially sighted and one of our para-athletes.

“His journey with us started as he wanted to get involved in the sport, but couldn’t find anywhere else to go.

“We’ve worked with him for a while and he’s now teaching his own classes.

“He’s taken on a big poomsae role, going to competitions and supporting them, and he was a big part in them winning four team trophies recently.

“We’re all about diversity and equality here, it’s massive to us.

“We have people of all different abilities and backgrounds at Horizon and I think what sets us apart is that we’re not just a club, we’re a family.”