IT may have been his first major international tournament - but that didn’t stop Kevin John returning from the IKU World Championships with a bronze medal around his neck after a valiant effort in Kilkenny, Ireland, at the weekend.

John, an instructor at Milford Haven Karate Club, fought in the men’s veteran kumite category of an event that saw more than 1000 entries from 21 countries over all competitions.

In John’s category, there were fighters from Ireland, Slovenia, Northern Ireland, and Brazil - and the 42-year-old made it through to the final four where he met a fighter from Slovenia, who would go on to be overall winner.

And he had it all to do as he went 4-0 down on the scoreboard, before mounting what was so nearly a famous fightback.

“I went on the attack to score with a reverse punch to the face and then followed on to score with a headkick which got it back to 4-3,” he told Telegraph Sport.

“But with only around three seconds left it was nearly impossible to tie the fight.

“I felt two of his scores that he was awarded I actually beat him to the punch, but sometimes those decisions go against you.

“But I felt I was the better fighter and I really believe that I would have gone on to take the gold had I got through.”

Regardless, John was able to reflect on a superb experience.

“I took loads away to build on for the next Welsh League event on the weekend - and I am now aiming for a big major competition next year, the 2018 WUFK World Championships in Scotland.”

And John was quick to thank all those who had backed him en route to representing Team Wales - including teammates at the Milford club and those who had helped him with sponsorship.

“I have never experienced so much pressure and emotion - representing your country, teammates and coach.

“I have to say thankyou to everyone back home for their massive support, it means so much.

“It really has been a rollercoaster of emotions over the last few days. I’ve never experienced anything like this before.”

Overall, Team Wales won 17 medals over the weekend - six bronze, eight silver, and three gold.

“It was a pleasure to be part of Team Wales. We had such a small squad but still came away with medals galore,” added John.