Bianca Walkden kicked off her hectic schedule of four tournaments in four countries inside a month with a silver medal at the Trelleborg Open in Sweden.
The Liverpool star, expected to be the only member of the GB Academy competing in all four events, was defending a title she won 12 months ago.
She reached the final of the +73 kg division without dropping a point only to lose 4-3 against Ines Kovacs. The durable Croatian had earlier knocked out Walkden’s fellow Brit, Stephanie Allen.
But it was an encouraging start for the former world number two ahead of the Manchester trained squad’s first ever participation on a Middle East circuit which takes them to Egypt, Fuijariah and Bahrain.
Despite still only being 22, Walkden was the most experienced member of a youthful eight strong squad that travelled to Scandinavia under the watchful eye of GB Performance Director, Gary Hall.
And there was plenty of encouragement for Hall as the group finished with five medals, including two silvers for two of the newest members of the team.
Londoner Christian McNeish is a former kickboxing junior world champion who joined the GB programme last year through the Fighting Chance Battle Brazil initiative. The 16-year-old justified his Trelleborg call-up by winning three fights at -junior 68kg before a narrow final defeat to Italy’s Davidea Spinosa.
There was silver also for another ex-kick boxer and the youngest Academy member, Lauren Williams. Not 15 until February 25, the Welsh prospect performed admirably in the -59kg junior tournament, including her final appearance against Licia Martignani.
In her first A Class event since major surgery to repair cruciate ligament damage, Scotland‘s ‘pocket rocket’ Asia Bailey, 16, collected bronze in the -49kg junior competition.
Not to be outdone was Southampton born Georgia Barnes. The 17-year-old claimed Trelleborg Open bronze in 2013 and came within fractions of upgrading it to gold against one of the world’s best fighters.
Barnes’ final opponent was 2010 European champion and 2011 World silver medallist, Rukiye Yildirim. Despite giving away five years in age and the gap in international experience, Barnes only lost on golden point to her Turkish rival.
Britain‘s two remaining players, George Lee and Andrew Deer, won five fights between them in reaching the quarter-finals and the last 16 respectively of the -74kg weight category.
Attention now turns to the Middle Eastern events starting with the Luxor Open from February 15-17.
“It’s a new challenge for us because we have never been to this part of the world to compete and we are looking forward to it,” says Hall.
“There will be a little apprehension because it is new territory for us. But we will learn from it and make us a stronger team for the experience.”
Christian McNeish (Plaistow)
Last 16: bt William Vikstrom (Sweden) 13-1
Quarter-final: Muhammed Fazil Uzunal (Turkey) 15-8
Semi-final: Hamza Adnan-Karim (Germany) 18-6
Final: lost 5-4 to Davidea Spinosa (Italy)
Andrew Deer (Tamworth),
Last 64 bt Boris Urtaev (Russia) 12-11
Last 32: bt Christos Pilavakis (Cyprus) 12-5
Last 16: lost 16-14 to Dean Sarcevic (Croatia).
George Lee (Lewisham)
Last 64: bt Joel Ramak (Holland) 7-1
Last 32: bt Zef Gjolaj (Holland) 4-1
Last 16: bt Vilius Cerniavskia (Lithuania) 3-2
Quarter-final: lost 7-1 to Julio Ferreira (Portugal) 7-1
-49kg junior: Asia Bailey (Larbert)
Last 16: bt Jeavonne Satter (Holland) 13-1
Quarter-final: bt Tena Kunovic (Croatia) 14-3
Semi-final: lost 13-1 to Craeen Indra (Belgium)
-49kg: Georgia Barnes (Southampton)
Last 16: walkover Charlotte Bjelke (Denmark)
Quarter-final: bt Jelena Prodanovic (Norway) 6-1
Semi-final: bt Kristina Tomic (Croatia) on golden point
Final: lost on golden point to Rukiye Yildirim (Turkey)
Lauren Williams (Newport, South Wales)
Last 16: bt Seyma Satilmis (Turkey) 13-1
Quarter-final: bt Hakima Elidrissi (Denmark) 13-3
Semi-final: bt Maria Moisidou (Greece) 8-4
Final: lost 16-4 Licia Martignani (Italy):
Stephanie Allen (Battersea),
Quarter-final: lost 1-0 to Ines Kovac (Croatia)
Bianca Walkden (Liverpool)
Quarter-final: bt Tihana Zivkovic (Croatia) 12-0
Semi-finals: bt Aleksandra Kowalczuk (Poland) 6-0
Final: lost 4-3 to Ines Kovac (Croatia)