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Ruqsana Begum won a bronze medal at the IFMA World Championships in Russia

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Ruqsana Begum broke eastern European dominance at the IFMA World Championships to win a brilliant bronze medal in Russia earlier this week.

The Muay Thai kickboxer from Seven Kings reached the semi-final in the -48kg competition, where she lost on points to her opponent from Belarus.

Across the weight categories fighters from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus – who receive funding to be full-time athletes – monopolised the medal places, but among them stood the plucky English fighter.

And Begum – who received a bye in round one and beat an opponent from Mauritius in the quarter-final, before losing her semi-final match on points – was delighted with her performance.

“They’re like superstars over there. I was up against some really tough opponents so I’m very proud,” she said.

“Fighters in Russia and Belarus have funding to train full-time, they have professional coaching and nutritionists, for example, and I gave them a really hard time.

“I knocked my opponent down in the first round of the semi-final, so I was really pleased.

“I’m happy with how far I’ve come and that I’ve won a medal given their resources compared to mine.”

The 28-year-old told the Recorder last week how she was struggling to meet the weight requirements, but the catering in St Petersburg soon amended that.

Begum, a devout Muslim, only eats vegetarian cuisine or halal meat and was forced to live off bread for the week in order to adhere to Islamic dietary law. But the British Atomweight champion admits she will be stronger for her experience.

“It toughens you up and you grow as a person coming to an event like this in a foreign country,” Begum said.

“I was struggling to eat. I was fighting with no food in me and I dropped so much weight in a week.

“Before I flew out I was struggling to get down to 48kg, now I think I’m less than 47kg.

“People tend to skip the night before a fight and sweat enough to get down to the required weight when really they’re bigger than that. I’m now underweight. I think my stomach has shrunk!

“I fly back on Friday night. I’m looking forward to seeing my family.

“Then I’ll speak to my coach and look at my programme for the rest of the year. I’ve been invited to fight in Spain and Mauritius – it’s an exciting time.”

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