HAVING already established himself as one of the top exponents in the Martial Arts discipline of Jitsu, Sligo's Ryan Smith is setting his sights on further glory.
A gold medal winner at the European Championships in 2013, the 33 year old fighter returned to Lisbon last month hoping to retain his title. He produced another heroic effort, winning two matches before losing out narrowly in the semi-finals to a Brazillian opponent. Nevertheless, it was a tremendous achievement to take a bronze against Europe's top exponents - and it maintained an impressive winning streak for the Sligoman.
"After winning gold the previous year, it was a little disappointing not to hold on to my title," says Ryan. "Still, it was great to get a European bronze medal.
"The standard was exceptionally high and I came very close to winning a Gold medal for the second year in a row.
"So, I can't be too disappointed. It was a great start to the year and it's a question now of trying to achieve more success."
Ryan's younger brother, Morgan, introduced him to Martial Arts about ten years ago. He was heavily involved with the Sligo Higashi Club before setting up the Alliance Jitsu club with Morgan and Mickey Downes in 2011.
"Jitsu was becoming increasingly popular and that sparked our interest," says Ryan.
"We affilliated with the national association and became the first Jitsu club in Sligo.
"We started out with just a handful of people involved but now we have over 50 members.
"The members are very dedicated. We train regularly at the Crib premises in Sligo town and at IT Sligo.
"It can be tough going at times but it's worth it when success comes along."
In Ryan's case, he was involved in intensive training over Christmas in preparation for the European Championships.
He explains: "All my friends were enjoying the festivities but I spent most of the time in the Gym. It was quite intense and I missed out a bit on the social side of Christmas but I didn't mind in the slightest."
Apart from pursuing his own career, Ryan also passes on his expertise to younger members of the club in his role as a coach.
With the National Cups coming up in Dublin in April, the focus will be on intense preparation.
"It's back to hard work in training now," he says. "After my experience in Lisbon, I will be more determined than ever. All you can do is train as hard as you can and give it your best. Then, the results will follow."
Another member of the Alliance Club, Dominik Szerzen, also competed in the European Championships in Lisbon.
He finished outside the medal placings despite a valiant performance on the international stage.