AN ASPIRING taekwondo athlete is set to compete internationally for the first time thanks to sponsorship from a local furniture retailer.

Harley Harbisher, 12, a student at The King’s Academy in Middlesbrough, will be participating in the boys -37kg division at the Reykjavik International Games in Iceland this weekend (17 – 18 January) with funding from Barker and Stonehouse.

The talented youngster has only been practising the Korean martial art for three years but has already impressed on the national stage, winning his category at the 2014 Manchester Open and 2014 Scottish Open. He also placed third at the 2014 English Open which was the first time he had competed in A class, meaning he can fight in any grade and any standard.

Harley said: “I want to be the best that I can be and would love to represent my country one day, just like British athlete Aaron Cook.

“Aaron is currently ranked world number one in the men’s −80 kg division and is a three-time European champion.  I was lucky enough to train with him recently and look up to him as a real inspiration.”

Harley Harbisher & parents

Also helping Harley on his path to success is his dad and coach Graham Harbisher, who trains with him three times a week at their local club in Middlesbrough.

Graham, a warehouse manager at Barker and Stonehouse, said: “I’m extremely proud of Harley and all that he has achieved in such a short amount of time.  We’re very grateful to Barker and Stonehouse for their support because it’s opportunities like this trip which will help him gain valuable experience and grow as an athlete.”

Harley with his mum and dad.
Harley with his mum and dad.

Harley, who hopes to gain a medal at the tournament in Reykjavik, also ran 100 miles during December to train for the competition.

Barker and Stonehouse managing director James Barker said: “We are delighted to sponsor Harley and to offer our support to staff and their family members.

“Graham has been with us for over a decade so I’ve known Harley since his was very young.  He is extremely dedicated and hard-working, despite being only 12, so I am in no doubt that he is destined for great things.”