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Britain’s No 1 karate kid Jordan Thomas has his eyes set on Olympic gold

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britains no 1 karate kid jordan thomas has his eyes set on olympic gold

In Jordan Thomas’s chosen sport, his legs are his lethal weapon. But Britain’s No 1 karate kid was once told he may not even be able to walk on those now super strong limbs.

When he was just two years old, the Luton lad was hit by a car, which left him lying unconscious on the road with a broken femur. Thomas, of course, does not remember the incident. But his horrified mum has told him the tale — and he has the hospital pictures to prove it.

‘It happened right outside my home in Luton,’ says the 2016 world champion, who is bidding to become Britain’s first Olympic karateka when the martial art makes its debut in Tokyo next year. ‘My brother crossed the road to go and see one of his friends and I followed him.

Karate is in his blood as Jordan Thomas' dad William and his godfather are ex-world champions

Karate is in his blood as Jordan Thomas' dad William and his godfather are ex-world champions

Karate is in his blood as Jordan Thomas’ dad William and his godfather are ex-world champions

‘I went out on to the road and I got hit by a car, snapping my right femur in half. I also cracked my head open. I was knocked out.

‘Mum heard the screaming outside and she instantly knew that something bad had happened. She ran out and saw me lying on the road. Did she think I had died? That’s the first thought when you see a kid just lying in the road, not moving.

‘Then the doctor said there was a chance I’d never walk again and recover properly. Luckily, I have strong parents who managed to get through it. But still to this day my family talk about how stressful it all was.’

A photograph of Thomas as a toddler shows him lying in a hospital bed with his right leg in a cast and a bandage on his left knee. A Mr Blobby teddy bear is with him for company. ‘He was my favourite,’ grins the 28-year-old.

The 28-year-old is bidding to become Britain’s first Olympic karateka in Tokyo next year

The 28-year-old is bidding to become Britain’s first Olympic karateka in Tokyo next year

The 28-year-old is bidding to become Britain’s first Olympic karateka in Tokyo next year

But instead of letting that accident affect his life, it turned out to be the making of Thomas, whose parents enrolled him in gymnastics lessons as part of his rehabilitation.

Thomas then took up karate at the age of four — the sport in which his dad, William, was also a world champion in 1992.

‘I have been punching and kicking since I was born,’ he says. Thomas is so flexible that, while he speaks to Sportsmail before training at the National Taekwondo Centre in Manchester, he sits doing the splits — for comfort.

‘With my dad being an ex-world champion and having a lot of clubs in Luton, I was always around that environment,’ he adds. ‘I also played football for Luton Schools. Watford said they would like me to come and have a trial. I was 14 and my dad said, “Right Jordan, do you want to do karate or football?” But for me, it was no question — karate.

Thomas became world champion in 2016 but his career was nearly cut short a few months later

Thomas became world champion in 2016 but his career was nearly cut short a few months later

Thomas became world champion in 2016 but his career was nearly cut short a few months later

‘I loved football but all my role models were in karate. My dad is from the golden era. All his best friends, including my godfather, are all ex-world champions and they are superstars to me. All I wanted to be is like my dad. He inspires me, but not just on the karate side. It’s also his drive and that’s in my DNA.’

Choosing a career in karate instead of football was obviously the least lucrative option. And Thomas had to work to pay his way in the sport, before he was finally awarded National Lottery funding in 2017 after karate was added to the Olympics programme for Tokyo.

‘When I was 20, I was a party leader for kids,’ explains the affable Thomas.

‘I went on to work four or five nights a week as a sports centre assistant. I was then a personal trainer and fitness instructor, and I had my own karate clubs for little children. There is no point having these skills if you don’t give back.’

Still, the GB fighter needed extra financial support to afford to compete at the World Championships in 2016 where he emulated his dad — who now coaches Hong Kong’s karateka — by winning gold.

Thomas as a toddler lying in a hospital bed with his favourite teddy while his right leg in a cast

Thomas as a toddler lying in a hospital bed with his favourite teddy while his right leg in a cast

Thomas as a toddler lying in a hospital bed with his favourite teddy while his right leg in a cast

He says: ‘I actually had to do some crowdfunding. I had some very generous people that helped me out and I made nearly £2,000. If it wasn’t for certain people, I definitely wouldn’t still be in the sport.

‘But I am lucky enough now to have National Lottery funding. It has changed my life in so many ways. I’m here at the National Taekwondo Centre and they have a gold-medal plan.’

After so much struggle and sacrifice to become world champion in 2016, Thomas’s career was nearly cut short just six months later when he came close to losing his eyesight.

‘I clashed on a punch and a thumb caught the inside of my eye,’ recalls Thomas about the European Championships in Turkey.

‘It tore the tear duct in my left eye. They said that if it was one centimetre deeper, I would have lost some vision. It was worrying at the time because I couldn’t see. They sent me off to hospital in an ambulance for emergency surgery.

His parents enrolled him in gymnastics lessons as part of his rehabilitation after the accident

His parents enrolled him in gymnastics lessons as part of his rehabilitation after the accident

His parents enrolled him in gymnastics lessons as part of his rehabilitation after the accident

‘All I remember is a big needle coming into my eye! They did it while I was awake. They had to stich inside my eye and I could feel everything that was going on. I was in pain and thinking, “Are they even doing it right?”’

Fortunately, those Turkish medics were correct and Thomas got his full vision back. Now he has his eyes set on next year’s rearranged Tokyo Olympics.

Due to coronavirus, Thomas’s next competition is not until March 2021, and the Olympic qualifiers are now that June.

With the first five of 10 spots already taken in his 67kg kumite category, Thomas — who has had to push his wedding back by a year from May 2021 — must win a medal in that event to make it to Tokyo, or hope for one of two wildcard places.

The pressure is most definitely on as not only is this the first time karate has featured at an Olympics, it also looks likely to be the last. The martial art has already been omitted from the programme for Paris 2024, a decision which looks set to be confirmed in December.

‘Being added to the Olympics has completely changed the sport so it’s a shame we have been taken straight back out without even seeing us in the Olympics,’ adds Thomas. ‘My whole world could change, but at least I’ve been a part of this Olympic journey. It’s the biggest thing in karate’s history and to have this chance and at my physical peak, I am a very lucky man.

‘The dream is now. I feel like if you get me in that mix, you are going to see something very exciting. We are going for that gold. Bring it on.’

l Since National Lottery funding started in 1997, Great Britain and Northern Ireland athletes have won 864 inspirational Olympic and Paralympic medals.

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Jamie Carragher writes off Scott Parker’s Fulham side after just THREE games in the Premier League

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jamie carragher writes off scott parkers fulham side after just three games in the premier league

Jamie Carragher has called Fulham owner Tony Khan a ‘clown’ and insisted that Fulham are more likely to be relegated from the Premier League than Liverpool are to retain their title.

Former Liverpool and England centre-back Carragher watched Fulham put on a defensive horror show as they lost 3-0 at home to Aston Villa on Monday and had no sympathy after supremo Khan apologised to fans on Twitter.

Slamming Khan’s decision to post about the fiasco on social media, Carragher told Sky Sports: ‘It never works, it always ends up in tears.

Fulham are bottom of the Premier League after conceding 10 goals in three games this season

Fulham are bottom of the Premier League after conceding 10 goals in three games this season

Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher slammed frail Fulham and club owner Tony Khan

Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher slammed frail Fulham and club owner Tony Khan

‘He’s a clown, getting involved with that. Just shut your mouth, get on with it, keep your head down.

‘It was a really poor performance. It was that bad, we were actually laughing at some of the defending. Fulham are going down – I’ve never been more certain about anything in my life. 

‘I’m more certain of Fulham going down than Liverpool winning the league. What we saw there was actually unbelievable.’

Flummoxed Khan revealed he had missed out on four defensive targets since Fulham were promoted from the Championship in August, while beleaguered boss Scott Parker admitted he was not fully aware of the owner’s struggle to enhance his squad.

Khan used Twitter to address supporters in the aftermath of the 3-0 home defeat by Aston Villa

Khan used Twitter to address supporters in the aftermath of the 3-0 home defeat by Aston Villa

The owner claimed that the club had been hampered in their attempts to boost their defence

The owner claimed that the club had been hampered in their attempts to boost their defence

Khan criticised the playing staff in a move that left Carragher and Roy Keane deeply perturbed

Khan criticised the playing staff in a move that left Carragher and Roy Keane deeply perturbed

Carragher fiercely criticised Khan’s role in Fulham’s big-spending summer two years ago, when they went on to be relegated with a whimper after winning promotion.

He said: ‘He was buying all the players, he made a right mess of that. What does Scott Parker think about this? What do those lads who are playing at the back think about that, who have maybe got to play in midweek or at the weekend?

‘Just keep your mouth shut. They were a mess last time they came up. What they don’t want to be this year is a mess. They’re going to go down but almost go down together, be a club, stick together.’

Former Manchester United midfielder Keane added that he could not see any of the positives mentioned by Cottagers manager Scott Parker (above) during his post-match remarks

Former Manchester United midfielder Keane added that he could not see any of the positives mentioned by Cottagers manager Scott Parker (above) during his post-match remarks

Carragher singled out full-back Denis Odoi for his part in the Cottagers’ third consecutive defeat since their return to the Premier League, while fellow pundit Roy Keane also directed a warning at Khan.

The former Manchester United midfielder said: ‘You talk about engaging with supporters but you shouldn’t be discussing the club’s business or your transfer targets.

‘That’s nobody’s business. When you’ve been beaten 3-0 at home, take your medicine and look at things over the next few days. Bizarre.’ 

There have been reminders of Fulham's last Premier League season in their first three games

There have been reminders of Fulham’s last Premier League season in their first three games

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Cam Norrie becomes latest Briton to lose in French Open first round to Colombia’s Daniel Elahi Galan

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cam norrie becomes latest briton to lose in french open first round to colombias daniel elahi galan

British tennis is facing a first-round singles wipeout at the French Open today, after Cam Norrie became the penultimate GB player to fall.

Playing in the first proper night session in the event’s 129-year history, the British No 3 went down 4-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 to Colombia’s Daniel Elahi Galan.

At the historically late hour of 10.37pm local time under the new lights at Roland Garros he finally unravelled, leaving only Heather Watson standing. She meets Italy’s Fiona Ferro today.

Cameron Norrie (above) became the latest Brit to crash out of the French Open at round one

Cameron Norrie (above) became the latest Brit to crash out of the French Open at round one

Daniel Elahi Galan beat the British number three 4-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 on Monday

Daniel Elahi Galan beat the British number three 4-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 on Monday

Norrie’s demise followed that on the opening evening of Andy Murray, whose friends rallied round him yesterday in the wake of comments from former world No 1 Mats Wilander questioning whether he is right to carrry on.

After Murray’s heavy defeat by Stan Wawrinka, Wilander’s views were branded ‘pathetic’ by Dani Vallverdu, who coaches the Swiss player responsible for ousting him. 

Andy Murray leaves court after being thrashed by 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka

Andy Murray leaves court after being thrashed by 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka

Swedish legend Wilander, winner of seven Grand Slam titles, is never afraid to speak his mind and said Murray should look at whether it was right to take wildcards at the expense of younger players.

Vallverdu, a former coach and close friend of Murray, was unimpressed, saying via Twitter: ‘He’s entitled to his opinion like I’m entitled to mine to think that’s absolutely pathetic from Mats.’

Nick Kyrgios, another of the 33-year-old Scot’s mates, gave one of his customarily robust responses: ‘Shut up Mats, no one cares. Muzz, just know that however long you stay, we all appreciate and enjoy your tennis and banter. Also I’ve never watched a point of Mats Wilander.’

Murray's lack of playing time was exposed by Wawrinka in the French Open first round

Murray’s lack of playing time was exposed by Wawrinka in the French Open first round 

Wawrinka celebrates following his emphatic victory over the Brit at Roland Garros

Wawrinka celebrates following his emphatic victory over the Brit at Roland Garros

Jim Courier, the former Roland Garros champion working for ITV, was more measured, but argued: ‘I think this isn’t the end of Andy Murray unless he wants it to be. He is realistic about what that looks like and I think everyone should be as well.

‘Andy has every right to take wildcards if they are offered and tournaments have every right to give them to him if they want to.’

Anne Keothavong, captain of Britain’s Fed Cup (now Billie Jean King Cup) team, suggested that Murray could look to change his longstanding support staff to try to get the most out of what remains in his career.

‘Maybe he might take a long hard look at the team he is working with,’ she said. ‘They have done a great job with him but maybe he needs somebody else to help fire that spark.’

Mats Wilander (above) said Murray should look at whether it was right to take wildcards

Mats Wilander (above) said Murray should look at whether it was right to take wildcards

Wilander is definitely one of the game’s better pundits, although he will have a job to persuade people why a former member of the old ‘Big Four’ has not earned the right to choose the manner of his own departure.

An underlying issue is that under the temporary Covid ranking system it is going to be harder for Murray to climb the rankings than in normal times, meaning more requests for wildcards.

Earlier yesterday Liam Broady, making his main draw debut, went out 6-2, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 to Jiri Vesely from the Czech Republic, finding the step up in class too much. 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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‘When you get through you have to score’: Mikel Arteta rues Alex Lacazette’s miss in Liverpool loss

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when you get through you have to score mikel arteta rues alex lacazettes miss in liverpool loss

Mikel Arteta praised Arsenal‘s improvement in the second-half of their 3-1 defeat to Liverpool on Monday night – but rued a crucial miss by Alexandre Lacazette to level the match at 2-2. 

The Gunners were dominated by the Premier League champions in the first-half but took a shock lead through Lacazette, who finished off a superb team move by finishing past Alisson.

Liverpool ran out deserved winners thanks to goals from Sadio Mane, Andy Robertson and substitute Diogo Jota – though Arteta pointed out Lacazette’s saved one-on-one just before the Reds’ third goal was a crucial moment in the match. 

Alex Lacazette missed a crucial one-on-one in Arsenal's 3-1 defeat to Liverpool on Monday

Alex Lacazette missed a crucial one-on-one in Arsenal's 3-1 defeat to Liverpool on Monday

Alex Lacazette missed a crucial one-on-one in Arsenal’s 3-1 defeat to Liverpool on Monday

With Arsenal losing 2-1 at the time, Mikel Arteta (above) described the miss as a major moment

With Arsenal losing 2-1 at the time, Mikel Arteta (above) described the miss as a major moment

With Arsenal losing 2-1 at the time, Mikel Arteta (above) described the miss as a major moment

Speaking to Sky Sports after the game, Arteta said: ‘In the second half we corrected a few things, we were much better. 

‘We had some problems still with the ball and we had the best chance in the game and when it comes to Anfield you’re not going to get 10 chances.

‘When you get through one against one against the keeper, you have to score if you want to get something out of the game.’

Lacazette (far left) had earlier given Arsenal a shock lead in the first-half at Anfield

Lacazette (far left) had earlier given Arsenal a shock lead in the first-half at Anfield

Lacazette (far left) had earlier given Arsenal a shock lead in the first-half at Anfield

Lacazette was visibly upset after his second-half miss when he was substituted late on

Lacazette was visibly upset after his second-half miss when he was substituted late on

Lacazette was visibly upset after his second-half miss when he was substituted late on

Sky pundit Roy Keane also critiqued Lacazette’s poor second-half finish and described it as a major moment in the game for Arsenal. 

The French striker was played through on goal thanks to an incisive ball from substitute Dani Ceballos but Alisson stood tall and managed to pull off the save. 

Keane said: ‘He could have taken it through, had a better touch. He should have put the ball into the back of the net, get into good habits. 

‘They are huge opportunities that you have to take. It was the middle of the goal. 

Sky Sports pundit Roy Keane also admitted Lacazette needed to score that crucial chance

Sky Sports pundit Roy Keane also admitted Lacazette needed to score that crucial chance

Sky Sports pundit Roy Keane also admitted Lacazette needed to score that crucial chance

‘We have to credit the goalkeeper for standing up but you don’t get many of those opportunities against Liverpool and you have to take them.’ 

While Arteta noticed the improvements from his side after the half-time break, the Spanish coach was also full of praise for Jurgen Klopp’s side and described how well the project under the German coach has worked for them.

He added: ‘It’s a tough place to come for anybody in the world. They (Liverpool) set incredible standards, they dominate every aspect of the game.

‘Taking the lead put us in a really strong position to believe more that we could get something out of the game.’ 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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