AN opportunity to mark your birthday by claiming an international title doesn't present itself often.

And one teenager from Winsford made the most of it after winning a gold medal at the World Union of Karate-Do Federations (WUKF) World Championships.

Rio Johnson had added motivation to succeed after an untimely bout of tonsillitis prevented him from being at his best while at last year's event.

"He was extra determined because of that," said dad Paul, who travelled with his son to Bratislava in Slovakia.

"And I think he's happy now to have put that behind him."

The 15-year-old, a third Dan, also improved a record of returning home with at least one medal from seven of the eight international competitions he has entered.

It is possible too that the student from Cheshire Martial Arts Centre, where he trains under chief instructor Paul Graham, was spurred on by a couple of near misses.

Winsford Guardian: Rio Johnson, from Cheshire Martial Arts Centre, with instructor Paul Graham at the World Union of Karate-Do Federations (WUKF) World Championships in BratislavaRio Johnson, from Cheshire Martial Arts Centre, with instructor Paul Graham at the World Union of Karate-Do Federations (WUKF) World Championships in Bratislava

He shared third place with Italian Emanuele Botti in the open kata (male cadet B, 14-15 years) only to miss out on a bronze medal following a tie-break.

It was a similar story after he returned to the Nepela Arena the following day when he was pipped to second place in the shito-ryu kata (male cadet B, 14-15 years) by another Italian in the form of Lorenzo Rossi.

However the Hartford Church of England High School pupil, part of an 11-strong England team representing the Shukokai Shito-ryu Karate Alliance, saved his most convincing performance until last.

From a field of more than 20 fighters, he emerged as victor in the shobu-ippon kumite (male cadet B, 14-15 years).

Paul said: "His weekend got better as it went on, so things happened in the right order!

"I think he felt a mixture of relief and happiness; Rio sets high expectations for himself, and he felt that fighting was his best chance of a gold medal.

"Shobu-ippon is technical, tactical too, and one score can be enough to decide the outcome.

"Fortunately he played it just right."

Rio has turned his attention already for the 11th WUKF European Championships at Odense, in Denmark, in the Autumn.