Stone storms combined team
Richard Stone's consistency this year earned him second spot in the Jamaica combined martial arts team standings and a unique qualification to the 2016 line-up.
The 23-year-old University of the West Indies student's solid season earned him 40 points behind Kevin Brown's 43, qualifying him from the reserves to first-team status, bypassing the normal invitee process.
Fighting as a new black belt after grading in November 2014, Stone started slowly before finding his footing among the big boys in heavyweight division.
"When the year started, I didn't start on a good note. I didn't medal at the first tournament, the Superstars, in February. I had no point. After three tournaments, I was on two points, the lowest black belt, in terms of points.
"Things started turning around for me and I started winning. I was so surprised when I made such a big jump, from almost bottom of the table to the top. It was a very good year at the end," he said.
Locally, Stone won bronze at the Shai-Tai Open; struck gold at the Jamaica Taekwon-Do Open; earned a bronze at the Ningen Open, May; won gold at the Seido Open, June.
Travelling to the United States Open as a black belt for the first time, he won clash sparring and got a bronze in continuous. He returned home brimming with confidence and landed the Jamaica Taekwon-Do Academy Open.
Wily Scott Wright got the better of Stone in the final of the Jamaica Taekwondo-Do Black Belt invitational. However, he showed his growth by closing his season with gold at the North American and Caribbean Tae Kwon Do Champs in Vancouver, Canada.
Stone started tae kwon do in 2010 while in lower sixth form at Kingston College, participating in the Jamaica Taekwon-Do McKay Security High School programme.
"I am really looking forward to the team fights with the combined team, new challenges, journeys and experiences. I have always longed to be on the team and I am looking forward to next year," he said.