Sports Awards: Jack Pickin proves to be master of the martial arts
JACK Pickin is only 13 years old, but is already being tipped to become an Olympic star of the future.
The Birches Head youngster is making waves in the world of Taekwondo, despite only being seriously involved in the sport for a year.
Jack was initially a dab hand at kick-boxing, but has made a seamless transition to the Korean martial art.
He is put through his paces by instructor Peter Johnson, who is a sixth dan at Stoke United Taekwondo Association, which trains at Cobridge and Abbey Hulton.
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But his natural talent, and willingness to learn, has already seen him on the podium at national events.
After months of training, Jack entered the British Taekwondo National Fighting Championships at Manchester Velodrome in September.
This is the premier event on the British Taekwondo calendar and attracted a huge number of entries following the sport's success at the London 2012 Olympics.
Despite the high standard, and it being his first competition, Jack made an immediate impact as he swept through to the final in the 49kg novice cadets class.
He took the fight to Mgdad Alim in a thrilling final, but it proved to be a step too far and Jack had to be content with a silver medal. However, his efforts drew praise from London Olympics bronze medalist Mohammed Lullato, who was the guest of honour.
Jack wasn't to be denied, however, and it didn't take him long to become top dog in the taekwondo world.
At his next competition, the Quest Yorkshire Open Taekwondo Championships late last year, he showed why he has a bright future.
He eased past the rest of the field and, spurred on by his previous experience of national competition, claimed the gold medal.
His dedication shows no sign of waning, and Jack trains four times-a-week under the watchful eye of Johnson at Abbey Hulton's Wallace Sports and Education Centre.
The coach has nominated him in the Junior Individual category of The Sentinel/City of Stoke-on-Trent Sports Personality of the Year awards.
"I am extremely impressed with Jack's transition to the sport," added Johnson.
"Taekwondo was recently voted in again as a core Olympic sport, and I can definitely see him being a future Olympic prospect if his development continues."