Barrhead karate star Niamh Junner got her 2019 off to an impressive start with a well-deserved bronze medal at the Karate Champions Cup in Austria at the weekend.

With 27 competitors representing 24 different clubs from all over the world in her category, the Hutchesons’ Grammar School pupil came through a tense repechage to clinch bronze in a packed field.

The 16-year-old was drawn to face Youth Olympic Champion Annika Saelid of Norway in the opening round in what turned out to be a fairly even contest.

The tense and tactical battle was all square with 10 seconds remaining before Niamh, knowing that the judges were likely to favour an Olympic medal winner if it ended in a draw, decided to go for the win with a late lunge. 

Saelid, however, is an expert counter puncher and caught Junner with a perfectly-timed body punch to narrowly progress.

Barrhead News: Junner impressive as ever as she clinches Champions Cup bronzeJunner impressive as ever as she clinches Champions Cup bronze

The Shitokai Karate Club member was then called back for the repechage where she went on to win an impressive three successive bouts against world class opponents Melanie Laufer of Switzerland, Katharina Winter of Austria and Jasmine Leiner of Germany to come away with a well-deserved bronze medal to start the year.

Junner finished off 2018 strongly at the World Karate Foundation Youth event in Venice where she amassed enough ranking points to see her rise up to number eight in the WKF Rankings at the start of the year with her success in Austria last weekend propelling her even further up the rankings to a new high of world number seven.

The Barrhead youngster has returned to Scotland to get preparations underway ahead of the European U21 Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark in February where she has been selected to represent Scotland.