KARATE star Lauren Salisbury is celebrating winning a fantastic bronze medal at the Youth Olympics.

Lauren - who trains at the Essex Uechi Ryu Karate Club in Benfleet - had to be in the top eight in the world to even qualify for the well-attended event in Argentina.

But Lauren was able to excel further and produced a string of fine performances, much to the delight of her mother Natalie.

“Lauren has had a lot of success in the past but this has to be right up there with her biggest ever achievement,” said Natalie.

“She had to go out to Croatia for a qualifying event, which was done on a knockout basis, and you had to be in the top eight in the world to even get to the Youth Olympics so it was a huge achievement to even qualify.

“But for Lauren to be able to get a medal was a brilliant bonus and we’re all so proud of her.”

Lauren has been British and English champion for the past three seasons, having first taken up the sport when she was just five years old.

However, she was initially a little reluctant to follow in the footsteps of her father.

“Her dad had done karate but Lauren wasn’t sure it was for girls to begin with,” said Natalie.

“But she’s loved it ever since.”

Lauren now trains in Benfleet five times a week.

And her coach Dean Lowe was left speechless by her latest success.

“We’ve had 14 fighters represent England in the last five years but this was just another level and I was honestly left speechless by it,” said Lowe.

“The kids at our club all idolise her and they’ve all been inspired by what she’s achieved.

“We all watched it together and it was just incredible but she deserves it because of all the hard work she puts in.”

Lauren’s sisters - Chloe and Megan - have also achieved success in karate and Lowe was quick to praise the part their mother has played.

“The support their mum gives them is just amazing and so is the amount of miles she must drive,” said Lowe.

“She drives them to places like Barnsley for England training and takes them all over the country.”

But Lowe also feels Lauren’s best is yet to come.

“Lauren has the Europeans coming up in Denmark in February and the Worlds just after that too so focus has switched to those events now,” said Lowe.

“She will look to get a medal in one of those and the long-term goal is to qualify for the Olympics, which is certainly achievable.”