Emma Ruthven admits that she still can’t quite believe she has made history for Scotland.

The 15 year-old from Carluke became the first Scottish female to win a medal at the European Junior Karate Championships in the Cadet Kata category and a week on from her impressive performance, she is still somewhat speechless about her achievement.

The teenager travelled to Sochi in Russia last weekend with modest expectations but stormed through the draw, ultimately finishing in third place. Having only won one match at the previous year’s championships, Ruthven’s target for the 2018 event was to double that victory count.

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However, she outdid herself, winning five matches to grab a place on the podium – and when she found out the following day that she had become the first Scottish female to reach such heights, she was not only delighted about her own personal achievement but also the impact her result could potentially have on the sport in this country as a whole. “It’s amazing – I can’t even begin to describe how it felt to stand on the podium,” she said.

“The big shock for me was beating Spain – they’re such a strong nation and so when I got through against Spain, that’s when I started to get more confident and that’s when I really started to believe that I could get on the podium.

“It wasn’t until the next day that I was told that no one else from Scotland had ever won a medal – one of the coaches told me during a debrief and I couldn’t believe it.

“What’s so great about that it that often, when one person from a particular country gets a medal, things begin to open up for everybody. It’s great to think that me winning this medal could potentially get more credit for the sport – that’s brilliant because everyone works so hard so to get more recognition would be amazing.”

Ruthven was involved in a number of sports as a child and in fact, harboured ambitions of being an elite swimmer at one point. However, with her dad involved in karate, she decided to try her hand at that and from day one, fell in love with the sport, with one of her favourite aspects of it being her ability to prove any doubters who thought that she was too small and weak to achieve success wrong. “From the very first time I tried karate, I absolutely loved it - I feel like I can really let all of my emotions out,” the teenager said.

“When I started it, I was quite small and so people would look at me and think that I was weak but I like proving people wrong and that pushes me on. And I like showing that it’s not just boys who can do a sport like this.”

Ruthven has steadily progressed through the junior ranks but the past twelve months have been by far her most successful. She broke into the world’s top 20 of the junior rankings last year and it was then, she admits, that athletes from other nations began to take her seriously, as well as boosting her own self-belief significantly.

“Last year’s results really helped my belief and boosted my confidence – I’d always wanted to do well but I’d never been sure if I could make it to that level,” she said. “So now, no matter what country I’m up against, it doesn’t matter - I feel like I can take anyone out.”

Ruthven could not have timed her surge into the elite ranks any better. In 2016, it was announced that karate would be included in the Olympics Games programme, with its first appearance coming in Tokyo 2020. Ruthven has her sights set on 2024 when she will be 22 and she admits that there is no better motivation than knowing she could ultimately become an Olympian.

“We’ve been waiting for that announcement for so long – and when the decision was coming, we stayed up all night to see what the answer was going to be,” she said.

“It makes such a huge difference for our sport - 2024 is the one I’ve got my sights set on and so I need to be working now for that. I know 2024 is six years away but that’s really not a long time – when you think of the level that everyone is at the top, the work has to start now.

“It’s so exciting to think I could be one of the Scots at the Olympics but there’s so much potential in our squad and that’s so great to train with people like that.

When I was a kid, the Olympics weren’t a dream of mine because it was never an option but now, it’s a massive goal. People were saying really well done to me for winning a medal last weekend but I feel like it’s just a stepping-stone.

“Hopefully this medal is just the first step and hopefully there’ll be many more. but what’s great about winning that medal is that it shows that I’m on the right path and I feel like the best is still ahead of me and that’s so exciting.”