I’ve had the most amazing week out at the Europeans. It was knackering but I’ve loved every minute of it. However it does mean I’ve been a bit slow to update you on the results, so sorry for that.
Well, to start with the first challenge of the competition – weighing in. On Monday 27th I weighed in at 55.9kg so was over a kg under my target, which meant I could have a nice big bowl of fruit for breakfast along with my green tea.
I then had some mango from M&S when I got to the airport and a pear that evening when I got to the hotel. It might seem like I should have eaten more and in hindsight I could have done. But I hadn’t worked that hard to drop the weight to then eat a bit too much at the last hurdle and be over on the scales. Tuesday morning did seem to take forever, especially sat with everyone having breakfast while I had an empty plate! We got on the bus to head to the weigh in’s and they were efficiently run and we were soon on the scales. I officially weighed in at 55.7kg, lowest I think I have ever been in a long time and while I felt a bit hungry, I didn’t feel anywhere near as weak as the last time I weighed under 57kg!
Then for the fun, but also very important job of refuelling. I started with just water and then water with electrolytes and magnesium in to try and help my body retain the hydration. After that I moved onto my smoothie, as it’s still easy for my body to digest with more nutritional content. It was a banana and date smoothie with my green and coconut powders added to get a load of potassium goodness in, along with a good supply of glucose to give me an energy boost! Once that had gone down a bit and there felt a bit of room in my now rather small stomach, I moved onto fruit – mainly bananas I had brought from the UK and pears I had stashed from breakfast at the hotel. So for the rest of the morning and pretty much whole day, I just continued to graze on fruit and the bars I had brought along. Mainly my active greens organic food bar to get all the raw greens goodness in.
With the rest of the team all weighed in, with a few valiant efforts from some members being wrapped up in sweat suits to get rid of some extra water weigh to make their category, we were back on the bus to the hotel to have some lunch and do some training. For dinner that evening the hotel put on a buffet and luckily for me it included a nice selection of veg. So I had what would become my standard dinner for the rest of the week – veg and quinoa (of which I had stashed a lot in my case!).
Our hotel room had a fridge and I had packed my nutribullet so for the rest of the week my nutrition consisted of smoothies, chia seeds puddings, overnight oats, veg, quinoa, raw bars, nuts, fruit and LOTS of water! Here are just a few of my supplies:
I also found a good way to get my raw sea salt in, to ensure I kept my hydration levels up. As putting it in my water really did make me feel sick so I instead dipped dates into the salt and it was like having salted caramels – delicious!
On Wednesday we had the opening ceremony and it was good to see the stadium and mats we would be competing on.
Thursday was day 1 of the competition and I was on for patterns, drawn up against Estonia in the first round. I did feel nervous walking out onto the mats but maintained my composure through my choice patterns of Ge-Baek and then the designated pattern of Hwa-Rang. The results were close but the decision didn’t go my way. While I was disappointed, my coaches said my pattern was technically on point and just needed more power. Given I’ve only be back training 4 months, I’m happy with that. The Estonian did go on to win bronze and may have gone further if she hadn’t landed awkwardly in the semi-finals and damaged her knee, having to be stretchered off. So I hope she makes a speedy recovery. If anything, losing in patterns so early on, just added to my drive to do well in the sparring.
Friday, day 2 of the competition none of my divisions were on, so I instead had a great time helping the rest of my team mates warm up and prepare for theirs. They all did amazingly and by the end of two days of competition the rest of the team had brought back an amazing medal haul of 12 bronzes, 5 silvers and 4 gold’s!
Saturday, day 3 my sparring division was on in the afternoon after the lunch break. I had a good breakfast of my overnight oats and then a banana and kiwi smoothie with my powders a few hours later. But after that I just lightly snacked on bananas, dates and a raw greens bar for lunch as I didn’t want my body to be busy using energy digesting when I wanted all my energy available for kicking and punching! After a bit of a delay to get going due to the division on before lunch running over, my division of -57kg adult female sparring was up and I was the first fight on the mats against Scotland. I was nicely warmed up and ready to go, feeling calm and composed, but as I stepped onto the mats to begin I could feel the butterflies in my stomach and my hands shaking a bit. However as soon as I got going that soon went and I bashed my way through the first round.
It felt amazing to get that first win, but next up I had Greece and knew that was going to be a tougher match. The Hellas team can sure give you hell to get past them and it was a tougher match indeed. I was down on points after the first round, but brought it back in the second and got myself through to the semi-finals stage.
Semi-finals and I was now facing Latvia to get through to the finals. Having now been watched for a few rounds it was clear her coach had told her to score a point and then get back out to a far distance away from me, as my forte was the closer hands game. Again it was a close first round, but I upped my workload in the second and landed a very satisfying axe kick to her face and came off with the win again!
Final round and the first time I had ever been in an International final. Stood opposite me was the competitor from Belarus. My coach Russell and I had watched her previous round and knew she was very “leggy” with a lovely side kick. So I was going to have to try and get inside that kick without using my face too much as a block (which on several occasions I unfortunately did!) The first round was close but in her favour. Russell knew doing more of the same wasn’t going to make me win, so we agreed to go for a bit of a gamble of a tactic and go all out to see if piling on the pressure would work in my favour. I pilled it all on and gave it my everything, but she got some beautiful kicks in and the final result went her way. I was totally happy with Russell’s decision and very glad he had made it. As I was happy to have gone out all guns blazing knowing I had given it my all. We did however have a good discussion afterwards about what I need to work on for next time to ensure I can get round those kicks and bring home the gold medal.
Here is a little compilation of some of my sparring rounds: https://youtu.be/Vxjk6213y3E
The rest of the England squad was continuing to do amazingly and along with my silver we picked up three more bronze medals that day.
For me the competition was over and I again enjoyed warming people up and helping those still competing on the final day. Again everyone performed amazingly and by the end of the competition ITF England was bringing home 20 bronze, 8 silver and 8 gold medals – well done team! Another bit of great news is ITF England won the bid to host the 2017 Europeans in Liverpool! So anyone that wants to come and watch mark the dates 24th– 30th April 2017 in your diary: https://www.facebook.com/eitfchampionship2017
Here is our squad with the Welsh, Irish and Scottish squads:
It was indeed an amazing experience and I’m so happy to be back in my England dobok and bringing home my first ever individual international medal was the icing on the cake!
But I couldn’t have done it without a lot of help, support, guidance and encouragement from a lot of people, including the whole ITF England squads and coaches, in particular Russell Jones for warming me up and being in my corner, even if he didn’t approve of my pink gumshield! The students and coaches of Thames Valley Taekwondo for preparing and training me over the last four months. My amazing PT Marty Butler at Nuffield Health for putting me through some gruelling workouts but ensuring I felt the fittest of all the girls on the mats! And last but certainty not least my amazing friend, physio and nutritionalist Sylvia Sobota for keeping my body in one piece, guiding me easily to under 57kg and just being the best mate ever! Hopefully I have done you all proud.
I’ve had a fairly easy week this week as after the long (often over 12hr days) at the stadium competing and landing back in the UK in the early hours of Tuesday morning to drive home in the pouring rain (England was clearly glad to have the team home) I had a lot of sleep to catch up on. I did go a bit crazy on Wednesday doing several gym classes and going to Taekwondo but paid for that on Thursday where I felt I needed match sticks to keep my eyes open at my desk! So apart from a nice gentle run in the countryside today as I’ve been home to see my parents, I’ve mainly just eaten and slept this week and of course treated myself to some delicious raw vegan chocolate!
But next week I’m looking forward to getting stuck back into training as I’ve got a lot of work to do over the next 4 months in preparation for the World Championships in Bulgaria. As next time I want to be stood at the top of the podium!