Nino Severino: Meet Ipswich’s version of the Williams sisters

Tahjae and Taia Kersey - Ipswich's two super-talented karate twins. Picture: LEONI KERSEY

Tahjae and Taia Kersey - Ipswich's two super-talented karate twins. Picture: LEONI KERSEY - Credit: Archant

In his latest column, Nino Severino introduces you to Ipswich’s own version of the legendary Williams sisters.

Sisters Serena and Venus Williams are legends of tennis. Picture: PA SPORT

Sisters Serena and Venus Williams are legends of tennis. Picture: PA SPORT - Credit: PA

Over the last few weeks I have had my attention drawn to the amazing examples of sporting siblings, and what an extraordinary phenomenon they are.

Looking at this subject it’s really important to understand the minute percentages of one child growing up to be a sporting superstar, let alone two!

If you take the sport I spent so many years in, tennis, it’s literally millions to one that your child will make the professional tour, let alone one day becoming a Grand Slam champion.

The fact that somehow, some families nurture, support, fund and find a way to produce two great sporting stars in the same family is simply mind blowing!

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I mentioned tennis, and of course there are two very high-profile siblings who have rocked the world of sport, let alone tennis – their names, of course, are Venus and Serena Williams.

Between them their combined major honours are simply staggering: 6x Australian Open, 3x French Open, 12x Wimbledon, 8x US Open (singles); 4x Australian Open, 2x French Open, 6x Wimbledon, 2x US Open (doubles); 2x Olympic gold medal (singles); 3x Olympic gold medal (doubles).

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Add to this that they grew up in the notorious, gang-ridden area of Compton, Los Angeles, and their legendary status because even more incredible.

Of course, the man behind these two sisters is Richard Williams, a man who had a vision for his girls, and committed his life to creating champions out of Venus and Serena, and what a job this man did.

I have met Richard on a number of occasions, and I must say, he is a thoroughly polite and positive person, humble and very sociable.

When you ask these incredible athletes what it’s like to have a sibling to live the sporting life with, they will often talk about an inseparable experience, the want and need to be with their brother or sister through all their training and competitive lives.

And often they choose their sport to be close to their sibling in a very conscious way, they may both begin in different sports, but then as time goes on, they chose to take the same sporting pathway.

Closer to home, in our very own region, I have discovered not only siblings but twins, a rarer example of sporting family success – Tahjae and Taia Kersey, 9-year-olds, who are already making a massive name for themselves in the new Olympic sport of karate.

They came to my attention when their mother Leoni, herself a European Karate champion approached me as Director of The Hub, our Centre of Excellence at The University of Suffolk.

They have recently added a haul of medals from the recent English Karate Championships held at the Leicester Arena, where across all the categories there were 1,051 fighters. Tahjae and Taia dominated their three categories to both become double English champions and silver medallists.

I have mentioned the influence that Richard Williams, who was not actually a tennis player himself had on the lives of Venus and Serena.

In that respect, Tahjae and Taia are in a better position than the legendary Williams sisters, as Leoni has a wealth of experience and achievements in their sport.

I had a very long and interesting chat with Leoni. She told me: “I couldn’t be any prouder of my daughters and their achievements to date. To win an English championships is a tall order, so to make three finals has just blown me away.

“Looking back through the results over the years, I don’t believe that anybody under the age of 18 has made three national finals, so for the twins to do it at 9-years-old is simply phenomenal.

“The girls already tell me that they want to win European, World and Olympic Championships and my response is, they can do anything they put their minds to.

“Having my daughters have the same love, passions and desires for karate that I did at that age is the best feeling in the world. Being their coach as well as their mum gives me the privilege of sharing this karate journey with them wherever it may take them.”

Personally, I think we may have the equivalent of the Williams sisters here in Ipswich – and my money is on both these girls becoming future global karate stars!

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