Cunningham hungry for gold in Hungary
MARTIAL ARTIST Sheckema Cunningham departed the island yesterday, bound for the World Association of Kickboxing Association World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, with eyes set on gold medals in continuous and points sparring.
Cunningham, 32, won double gold at May's International Sports Karate Association (ISKA) Amateur Member Association World Champs in Greece. She is hoping to become the first person to hold dual titles with both organisations.
Though she has been enjoying tremendous form this year, sweeping early season local tournaments, leading Jamaica to a Gold Cup title and double gold at the US Open in July, Cunningham still has the jitters ahead of Hungary.
"I am trying not to worry about it. If I do, I might get nervous and shut down. What I plan to do is watch a couple divisions first," she said yesterday, adding that teammate Subrina Richards, who won double gold at WAK's Pan Am Champs in Mexico last year, has briefed her on what to expect.
"From what Subrina told me, the continuous sparring will be tough. They pressure you and keep coming, so you have to be on your guard at all times and don't give in. You have to pressure as much as they do," she said.
Points sparring, she said, is none easier than continuous sparring because "one touch and the person scores. It is very tactical. You have to be ready, really ready."
Admitting that 2017 has been "my best year in a long time", Cunningham, who, historically, won an individual bronze medal in sparring at the International Taekwondo Federation World Championship in New Zealand, 2011, said that after 20 years on the mat, anxiety never leaves, adding that she had no idea who here opponents would be.
"People ask, 'Why do you get nervous? After 20 year,s you should get used to it'. Well, I am not. How do you get used to being hit? Nobody does. I am nervous even for local competitions," she said.