A year 10 student from Epsom has been crowned champion of Europe after winning the Taekwondo European Championships in Spain.

14-year-old Leyla Palser hails from Chapel Way in Epsom.  

The Surrey student was also named UK and European Number 1, and world Number 2 in her category when the global rankings tables were released recently.

Her stunning success came after countless training sessions, competitions and a hectic travel regime made possible thanks to the support of her family, teammates and school (Blenheim High School).

Yet despite the effort and sacrifices required, Taekwondo has been a hugely positive influence for Leyla personally too.

“I was really shy. I didn’t have many friends when I started and I just ended up loving it. It’s really helped me build my confidence,” she told the Comet.

Surrey Comet: Leyla Palser fights at the Taekwondo European Championships in SpainLeyla Palser fights at the Taekwondo European Championships in Spain

Her journey with the martial art started in Sutton before she moved to start training at the Aquila Centre in Bromley.

Since then her coaches swiftly realised her enormous potential and worked with her to help fulfil it.

“I come home from school and leave for training right away and am not back till about 10 normally.

“Apart from that I train in Manchester twice a week too so I have to travel quite a lot for training,” Leyla described.

Those extra journeys up North are thanks to Leyla’s current place on the Team GB Development Squad — the ‘Olympic Pathway’.

The added level of expertise must surely have stood her in good stead ahead of a tough European Championships in Spain.

Her success there surely owed much to her own skill, yet the Epsom resident was eager to praise the team around her after the win.

“My coaches and teammates are all really supportive. It’s nice to have such a supportive team behind you. Without my team I don’t think I would have been anywhere near where I am right now,” she said.

Surrey Comet: Leyla Palser celebrates her win at the Taekwondo European ChampionshipsLeyla Palser celebrates her win at the Taekwondo European Championships

Leyla’s latest triumph at the Cadet-level European Championships witnessed her come through several demanding bouts including a nail-biting quarter-final where she secured a win in the final seconds.

The final then saw her square up against a fellow GB athlete for the title.

“There were five fights on the day so that was one challenge in itself because I’m used to three or at the most four.

“I was fighting my teammate and she’d been selected as the first choice. I was losing until the last second and in the end won by one point. The final score was 14-13 and I managed to do it when it really mattered,” Leyla described.

Her mum Ender said the pair both now both reflect on the surreal reality Leyla is now among the best at her sport on the planet.

“It’s such a massive ‘wow’ moment,” Ms Palser told the Comet, audibly glowing with pride at her daughter’s achievements.

Like Leyla, Ender selflessly pointed out the support of others in helping Leyla get to where she has.

“Her school have been super, super supportive because obviously she needs time off to travel for training and competitions, and they’ve been absolutely phenomenal behind her,” she said.  

As for Leyla herself, the dedication and training continues.

She will soon enter the ‘Junior’ class competitions where she will face other fighters even older and more experienced than her.

It’s the next step on a journey that she hopes will one day take her all the way to representing Britain at the Olympics.

So does Epsom’s Taekwondo ace have any advice for future martial artists who might be interested in taking their sport to the next level?

“If you want to go for it just do it. There’s nothing holding you back. It can be quite mentally draining and you have to believe in what you’re doing.

“Just believe in yourself and don’t give up.”