A SOLDIER from South Tyneside has been honoured after an incredible sporting year.
Karate star Sergeant Hayley Just, from Simonside, South Shields, has been named as the army’s Sportswoman of the Year after winning a medal in each of the 15 competitions she entered in 2013.
Sgt Just, 34, is a member of the Royal Engineers’ 103 Field Squadron, which is based at Debdon Gardens, Newcastle.
She picked up the prize at the British Army Land Forces Headquarters, in Andover, Hampshire.
By winning the award, she is automatically in the running for Combined Services Sportswoman of the Year in 2014.
Among her successes this year were becoming double national champion, army champion and inter-services champion, as well as finishing in third place in the All American Nationals and World Championships.
Sgt Just, who is a first dan black belt, admitted she was “overwhelmed” after picking up the award.
She said: “It is extremely good news. I have put in a lot of hard work over the last year and it has paid off. It was all a bit overwhelming.”
Sgt Just went to the awards ceremony with her boyfriend, staff sergeant Brian Hall. He also competes in karate, and won two gold medals at the Karate Association American Federation Nationals and Collegiate Tournament, in New Orleans, Louisiana, last month.
His son, Kevin, also won a gold medal at the same competition.
Sgt Just and Staff Sgt Hall are the instructors of Gakushuin Karate North East, which runs sessions at Mortimer Community College, in Reading Road, South Shields, on Monday and Wednesday evenings.
Sgt Just also holds a second degree black sash in Kung Fu. She has now set her sights on another medal-laden year, looking to improve on the bronze medal she won at this year’s World Championships by going a step further in the European Championships.
Sgt Just, who has been in the reserves since 1998, added: “I’d like to secure a place in the squad for the European Championships next year. I will be trying to get a better medal than bronze, and hopefully get the gold.”