A SALTCOATS karate star is set to represent her country on the worldwide stage - just one year after undergoing surgery for an injury.

Aria Pascual will be travelling to Japan this summer as she competes for Scotland in the JKS World Championships for Shotokan karate.

The 23-year-old will head into the competition, taking place on July 25 and 26, as reigning world champion in her class.

However, her preparation for this year's contest has been far different from last time around.

After injuring the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial meniscus in her knee, Aria Pascual began 2023 in a knee brace having just gone through surgery.

Though through plenty of hard work and dedication to her rehab, she has returned to fitness and competition in 2024.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Aria Pascual is set to compete in the JKS World Championships in Japan later this year.

An ideal return to competitive action saw Aria claim gold at the Scottish Students Championship in February, as well as fifth place in British Universities and Colleges Sport contest while she also took part in a Series A international elite event in Cyprus.

In April she placed third in the British Championships and represented Scotland for the first time as a senior athlete this month in the Senior European Championships in Croatia.

"It feels amazing to be back competing," she said.

"I worked so hard post-surgery to get back to performance level of my sport. 

"It was a very difficult time when I was unable to perform due to the injury and if it was not for the support from my family and close friends then it would have been even more challenging. 

"I feel like myself again being able to train, perform and compete.  I am back doing what I love and representing my country."

The former Ardrossan Academy pupil is also glad to have competitive action under her belt prior to the World Championships - as she gets used to the affects of surgery on her performance.

Aria added: "I am proud of my performances at the recent competitions.

"One thing that I had not anticipated to impact me from being out of competition for two years was the effect it had on my confidence and self esteem. 

"I trained so hard to get back being physically fit but at the European Championships this month for my senior debut, it was noticeable my confidence was affected. I felt so much more pressure than I ever had before.

"This means there is still work to be done. I am ready to work hard to achieve the goals I want to achieve in Japan for the JKS World Championships in July and in my other upcoming events!"

The competition will see Aria return to Japan for a tournament for the first time since she was just 13-years-old.

Though she still has high hopes for her performance as well as her chances of being crowned a world champion once again.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Aria Pascual is set to compete in the JKS World Championships in Japan later this year.

She continued: "It will be exciting! I competed in Japan 10 years ago and I look forward to competing there again. 

"The pressure is on to retain my title as JKS world champion however I am up for the challenge and I am looking forward to the preparation and journey for it.

"I hope to represent myself and my country well for the JKS World and International Championships and retain my title as JKS world champion."

While the Saltcoats woman is hopeful this can be the first step on the ladder to becoming one of the top karate athletes on the planet.

Aria said: "I have big dreams for my sport, I achieved the top 10 as an athlete in under 21, I want to be in the top 100 and competing in Premier league K1 competitions by 2025. That’s the goal to get me to top 10 one day.

"I have upcoming competition as well as the JKS World Championships in Japan in July, I will be competing in the International British Championships in September, international Series A in Austria in September and the Polish Open in October.

"I would like especially to thank Breen roofing for their continued sponsorship, but would like to thank the support local businesses in North Ayrshire for their kindness in my support. 

"I am a self-funded athlete and would be forever grateful any local businesses to support a local athlete to go along this journey together."

Anyone interested in providing sponsorship for Aria on her journey should contact ariapascual2012@gmail.com.