The organisers of Saturday’s international Sambo martial arts event in Ballymena have announced plans to make the tournament an annual event in Northern Ireland.
The news follows the ‘resounding success’ of the inaugural tournament.
Almost seventy athletes from nine countries competed for medals with Northern Ireland fielding a team for the first time.
The athletes came from Russia, the Netherlands, England, USA/Canada, France, Cameroon, Trinidad & Tobago.
The Northern Ireland President’s Cup 2018 held in Seven Towers Leisure Centre featured team and individual competitions in different weight categories.
The day began with an opening parade of countries behind the pipes and drums of Broughshane and District Pipe Band.
After the event, Vasily Shestakov, President, International Sambo Federation, said they were overwhelmed by the reception they received and the warmth of the hospitality.
Mr Shestakov said: “Sambo is a people sport and this was the first time to hold the tournament in Northern Ireland. It couldn’t have gone any better. Everything went like clockwork, and that was down to the superb organisation on the ground.
“I leave Northern Ireland but so impressed were we that we intend to make the Northern Ireland President’s Cup an annual event. The weekend was a resounding success.”
Michael Wynne-Parker, President, Commonwealth Sambo Association, said: “The competitions provided the appreciative audience with valuable insight into what Sambo is all about.
“Combat without weapons is all about fitness, technique and timing and we saw all of those attributes expertly displayed in Ballymena.
“I would like to thank Mid and East Antrim Council for its support, not forgetting the invaluable assistance afforded by the local MP, Ian Paisley.”
The leader of the nine-strong Northern Ireland team, Karl St John, said: “We secured a team bronze and obviously were thrilled to feature on the winner’s podium on our first outing. The experience was invaluable.
“We will now work on spreading the popularity of the sport and hopefully developing a network of new Sambo clubs.”
More than 130 attended the event including referees, coaches and supporters.
The competition provided a boost for local hotels, travel providers, restaurants and retail outlets.