WHEN Rodley’s Aaliyah Young was a four-year-old, mum Kirsty and Michael Long opted to introduce their daughter to horse riding.
It soon became apparent that something rather more physical and up-tempo was needed.
Thai boxing was chosen as a more demanding alternative and three years on the Leeds ace is targeting European and World glory amidst a swelling collection of medals and trophies.
Aaliyah, aged seven, was recently crowned the ISKA Junior British champion and Celtic 2014 Novice Open Champion to continue an amazing three years of success in the sport.
In that time, the Valley View Primary School pupil has had 41 fights, winning 12 trophies, 29 medals, one championship belt and the junior British championship title.
The European title is the next milestone on the youngster’s agenda but dad Michael can still remember his daughter’s introduction to sport – which initially came in the equine sphere.
“Aaliyah’s passion for thai boxing started at the age of four,” said Long. “It all started when her mum and I wanted her to do horse riding.
“But after a few lessons she quickly lost interest.
“At that point we realised, by her personality, she needed something more challenging.
“On the day Aaliyah’s career began I came across a sign at the local gym advertising self defence classes in the form of Thai boxing.
“We went along to observe the class that night and she came away full of energy and keen to learn the sport.
“Since Aaliyah took this sport up her mum, me and her uncle also now train at the same gym.
“Before this no-one in the family showed an interest in the sport.”
Now the Leeds-born youngster’s field of expertise even has an influence on the destination of holidays – with Thailand chosen as the perfect place to ‘unwind’ back in April this year.
Except for Aaliyah, there was not much relaxation and recuperation.
Her father revealed: “When Aaliyah visited Thailand on a family holiday in April she was training for six hours a day in their local gym by her own love for the sport. Aaliyah and I flew back in from Thailand on October 31 for more training ready for her next fight on November 2.
“She was determined to do more training even on Saturday (November 1) at our local gym.”
Her dad continued: “Aaliyah’s typical week consists of training at the gym five times a week including Saturday mornings and swimming lessons on a Friday after school.
“However, when she is training for a fight she is up every morning at 7am and runs round a football pitch five times as well as her normal routine.”
For Aaliyah it’s a case of no pain, no gain and lofty ambitions quite naturally burn bright.
“Aaliyah’s short-term ambition is to be allowed to continue doing the sport she loves,” added Michael.
“And her next goal is to get the European title.
“Her long-term ambition is to open her own gym and train others in the sport and to pass her success on to others.”
Given the first three years of her Thai boxing story, it seems inevitable the Leeds youngster will succeed.
Michael added: “Aaliyah’s determination and dedication for the sport is very high and she is always exceeding her goals.
“Her mum and I are very proud to be able to support her in fulfilling her dream to one day be a world champion.”