A budding taekwondo superstar from Nelson has celebrated being selected to represent Pakistan at the Asian Games later this year in Indonesia by winning gold at the Wales Taekwondo International Championships in Cardiff.
Despite her last tournament outing coming in Slovenia in February, Aneila Afsar (19) breezed through her three fights at Sofia Gardens in the Welsh capital earlier this month to take home the gold medal and, turning her gaze towards the 18th Asian Games which are to be held in Jakarta and Palembang in August, claims she is at her peak.
Married and living in Manchester with her husband Abdelkayoum Bedri and their young daughter Mira Imaan Bedri, Aneila is hoping that a strong showing in Indonesia and subsequently at the 2019 World Taekwondo Championships on home soil in Manchester will see her fulfil her dream of competing at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.
"It's probably the best fight I've had since I came back [from giving birth]," said Aneila, who took up taekwondo at the age of six after taking part in a class at Nelson Community Centre. "I've not been doing that many tournaments recently so Wales was really good. I felt in my peak, and my performance showed it.
"It's given me a boost of confidence and now we just need to look for more experience and move forward," she added. "I honestly think I could go and do really well at the 2019 World Championships; it's always been my aspiration to become world champion and it's definitely possible if I keep working hard."
Still on the hunt for sponsorship opportunities to help fund her way to more international tournaments, the former Pendle Vale College and Burnley College student Aneila explained that the choice to don the green of Pakistan for the Asian Games was a 'no-brainer' and that the chance to do so was 'massive' for her.
Working with strength and conditioning coach, John Docker - who has trained 18 international athletes - and with former-Olympian Kathy Hook at Ultimate Taekwondo in Doncaster, Aneila trains six days a week, sometimes taking her daughter Mira to training with her.
"She sits and watches me and laughs," explains Aneila, who is supported by Fitness Evolution where she does a lot of strength and conditioning training. "[Balancing training and home life] can be challenging because you don't get the recovery time other athletes get, but it just makes me work twice as hard."
Motivated by a dead-eye determination to reach the very top, Aneila is not an athlete one would bet against in a hurry and with international and Olympic dreams aplenty, she has no plans to slow down now.
"I'm not fazed by competing at a high level," Aneila says. "There's nobody who's unbeatable."