JACK Thomas’ former tae kwon do mentor said the teen was an “inspiration” and has vowed to support a campaign set up in his memory.
On February 12, 2012, the 15-year-old from Oakdale died suddenly of a suspected heart problem while watching rugby at his girlfriend’s house in Newbridge.
The Argus has since teamed up with the teenager’s parents, Grant and June Thomas, to campaign to get defibrillators into every secondary school in Gwent in memory of Jack.
The former Oakdale Comprehensive School pupil, who stood at a towering 6ft 3in, had no previous health issues and was competing towards the European Championships at the time of his tragic death.
Peter Kent-Marrast, 54, is the owner of Tae Kwon Do Wales, which has more than 400 members. He oversaw the development of Jack, who began tae kwon do lessons in Oakdale aged seven and earned his black belt at only 11 years old, and his first ‘Dan’ aged 14.
Tae Kwon Do Wales bows to Jack as a sign of respect before each bout. A large canvas depicting Jack is situated at the Fleur De Lys Community Centre, where a lot of the training is done.
Mr Kent-Marrast said: “He inspired a lot of my students because he was one of the stand-outs and a major medal-puller. He took gold in just about everything and at the time he died, he was competing for the European Championship.
“He was very good with the younger children and just an all-round good guy. He was never the ‘big I am,’ he was a good example to the younger students.
“It’s still hard to talk about it now. His mother is still a major part of our club and comes to present an award around Christmas time which we have dedicated in Jack’s memory.”
Apart from his sporting success, Jack was also an A* student and had passed an exam to earn a sought-after scholarship at Cardiff Sixth Form College – Jack died three days after being told of his latest achievement.
Mrs Thomas said her son was a “talented athlete” and although he played rugby and cricket, his biggest sporting passion had always been tae kwon do.
Mr Kent-Marrast said: “I think the campaign is a great idea and if it helps to keep Jack’s memory alive, that’s brilliant. He was amazing.”