A young girl who has Down’s Syndrome is celebrating after receiving a BLACK BELT in mixed martial arts.
Eva Hardy, who is just eight-years-old, has risen through the ranks in the sport in just three years to complete a family set of black belts with her supportive mum Lisa, 46, and sister Maria, 14.
The fighting youngster has been training together with her family in Martial Arts since 2013, with Lisa and Maria both receiving their first degree black belts in 2016.
Beaming Eva was presented with her black belt in November during a huge ceremony and is hoping to carry on through the steps to increase her rank in the sport – with opportunity for up to ten more steps on the ranking ladder.
In heartwarming footage, she can be seen rushing over to her instructor to be given the belt before proudly displaying it for photographs adorned with a huge smile.
Her proud mum Lisa said: “This is a massive achievement for Eva and it would be good to celebrate the achievements of children with special needs, to show that they are capable of joining in and to celebrate their success.
“She has been training for the last three years for this moment and has progressed the same as everyone else, she absolutely loves it.
“I am so proud of her.
“A lot of children don’t get that representation and the more encouragement, support and acceptance for them, the better.”
Eva, from Sheffield, South Yorks., was presented with the honour at the weekend during the Black Belt Extravaganza, held at the Hilton Hotel in the city.
Her mum added: “Eva loves training and gives it her all each time she goes.
“The training has shown her discipline, respect for herself and others, as well as building up her muscle tone.
“She’s the type of girl that won’t give up, she just keeps going and going and always perseveres.
“I can definitely see a change in her, more confidence and she has started to introduce herself to new people and make a lot more friends.
“She has a permanent massive smile on her face.
“She is just like everyone else, she is so loving and I couldn’t be prouder of what she has done.”
“Eva uses Makaton sign language, as well as speaking, as the delays in her speech mean that she cannot always voice what she means.”
Eva now hopes to train towards getting her second degree black belt.
The family says that being a part of Castle Martial Arts is like ‘one big family’.
James Sheehan, who is the club’s senior chief instructor said: “I don’t know if I’ve seen anything more exceptional than Eva, her character and her strength are just so inspirational.
He added: “She absolutely lifts the room with her smile and her positivity.”
Eva, who attends mainstream school, has lots of friends who are also ‘really proud and supportive’ of her incredible accomplishment.
Eva hopes to carry on fighting and has just begun learning to swim.
She has told her mother she hopes to become a dentist in the future.