Wow what a week I had at the 19th Senior ITF World Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria!
We arrived on Monday 24th Aug after a very early flight. We weighed in that afternoon so I had just had a juice when we got up for the flight at 3am and by now was looking forward to getting some water and food in me. With the whole squad weighed in, one of the girls just had to sweat out a little bit more weight – which meant a little bit of fun in the sauna! Fair bit of sweat later and we were all weighed in and set to go!
Tuesday and Wednesday we had time to train and do some last minute practising and get more acclimatised. We still had early starts but I did sneak in the odd afternoon nap and get early nights to fully catch up on sleep.
Thursday it was game day and in the team meeting Wednesday evening we thought it would just be patterns on today, but all packed our sparring kit just in case.
As expected patterns were on in the morning and I was up first for my 1st Dan patterns division. I was up against Turkmenistan in the first round. It was a close decision but unfortunately didn’t go my way. Later in the morning the rest of the girl’s team was up for team patterns. They did amazingly and earned a bronze medal. The rest of the squad did great also, with the male team also getting bronze for team patterns and Carl earning a bronze for his patterns division.
It was then back to the hotel for lunch and time for me to really get my head in the game, as that afternoon my sparring division was on. After a rather light lunch, it was back to the arena and I wanted to get changed, get my sparring kit on and get warming up straight away. As there is nothing I hate more than feeling not ready. When I had woken up that morning my head was in patterns mode, so I was finding it difficult to get into sparring mode. I grabbed my iPod and listened to some of my music and then got one of the coaches Mr Miller to do some pad work with me which really helped get me in gear.
Then I was up. First round I faced Italy and four minutes of work later (as a bout is 2x2mins) I was moving onto the next round where I would face Slovakia (as she had got a by in the first round). Another load of hard work and I won the decision and was into the quarter final rounds. Now I faced Bulgaria (the host nation) who had earn’t her place beating Slovenia. It was getting close to the end of the day and I was a little bit worried they would call it a day before our fight. As I always perform best once I’ve been in the ring several times. It was all good and we were to be the last fight on our ring for the day. She was a tough opponent and I had to be patient and wait for the opportunity to score my points. As I was smaller than everyone in my division, I had to make sure I got in, scored my points and then got back out of their range again. It worked and I again won the decision and made my way to the semi-finals, knowing I would be bringing home a medal! Here is my sparring round against the Bulgarian: http://youtu.be/pwN2YI-kYcc.
Back to the hotel and I got a good dinner, had an Epsom salt and Better You magnesium flake bath to try and help my muscles recover as much as possible to be on top form the next morning. I woke up Friday morning in sparring mode and was looking forward to getting back on the mats. I had a light breakfast and again had Mr Miller and Valentina (a female squad member) help me warm up for my bout against Hellas. She had beaten the Korean to earn her spot against me, so I knew she would be a tough opponent and I would have to go in fully ready. I gave it my best and it was a close bout, but unfortunately the decision didn’t go my way. I’ll be looking through any video footage I can find to work out where I can continue to improve to get my goal of being a World Champion next time. However I am also really proud of the improvements I have made since the Euros in April. As I have certainty added a lot to my game and know I can continue to improve even more. The Hellas girl was beaten in the final by the Russian which meant the final podium line up for the adult female -63kg sparring division was:
Thank you again so much to Mr Miller for your great coaching for my fights. I really appreciate it and the support from the rest of the team cheering me on!
It wasn’t all over yet, as tomorrow we had team sparring, which meant home to have another Epsom salt and magnesium flake bath and an early night. I love team sparring as you are all mat side with each other cheering everyone on. First round we had Japan and the coach D, put me up first. They were small, but we knew they would be quick. I powered my way through the 2min bout earning a very strong win and giving her a bit of a black eye, but I was just concerned with getting our team off to a winning start! That winning start continued with Emma and Valentina bringing it home giving us the 3-0 win we need to progress onto the next round.
This time we faced Russia and knew it was going to be a much tougher fight. I was again selected to go up first but this time something happened I have never had happen to me before. The Russian coach put in his chosen opponent for me and then waved the bout. So I got the decision and the win for my team, but had wanted to fight my way for it and was honestly disappointed to not be able to do so. Next up was Valentina and she had a tough opponent and did really well, but unfortunately lost the decision. Then Katie went in and was her usual brilliant and got a draw. Which meant we had one win each. Kirsty went in and gave it her all and in another close bout the decision went to Russia. Then Faye went in and did amazingly but the final decision went to Russian and they moved into the semi-finals. They continued through to face Korean in the finals in the amphitheatre. So we were all proud of the performance we put on and hope next time it can be us in those finals!
The rest of the squad again did amazingly with the boys all having close bouts and Ricky and Russell bringing home bronze medals in their individual sparring divisions.
Finally we had special technique and power divisions to go. I had qualified myself and the female team for special technique with the flying side kick technique, which involves jumping over two 70cm hurdles set 1.5metres apart and breaking a board the other side. As I had so much to cover and limited time to practise everything for the worlds, I had devoted most of my time to this technique, so the other four where nowhere near as polished. I was close on the flying high kick and jumping reverse turning kick (both of which are over 2 metres high) so with more time to practise both I’m excited to see what I’ll be able to achieve in future competitions. But it meant no medal contention this time. For team special technique the other countries had put in higher heights while we had only submitted the minimums so we didn’t get to attempt all of them and unfortunately didn’t contend for a medal – but again nothing some practise can’t improve. The male team did amazingly after Tom qualified them and hit several of their special techniques, but missed out on a medal position.
Then on to breaking and D had already qualified herself for the individual division, smashing through the knifehand like it was paper! Watching the rest of the competitors include the men hitting those boards they were indeed not paper and looked more like concrete! Katie was qualifying our team with the turning kick technique and she gave it an amazingly hard kick making the 2nd board at the back do a slight bend, which hardly anyone else had managed to do. We were so proud of her, but it did mean we hadn’t qualified. The male team were hitting the boards really hard too, but unfortunately we didn’t add any power medals to our England team tally.
For us that was the competition all done, so we went out for a little celebratory drink before heading to the amphitheatre to watch the team sparring finals. It was an amazing settling and the female final was Korea vs Russia and the male final was Korea vs Ukraine. Korea’s class shone through and they won both finals and it was amazing to see them all dancing about at the end and throwing their coaches in the air!
Sunday the final day with the self-defence female and male hero finals to watch, which we were great and then the closing ceremony. As our arena was a velodrome and it was the official opening of the centre there was a lot of cycling involved, but I would have rather seen more Taekwondo! That all done, it was back to the hotel to eat and head out to the party!
It was a great night out and after getting in at 4am to then get up at 6am for our bus to their airport, I was very glad I had brought a travel neck pillow thing to be able to snooze some more on the bus and plane back to London and home. It was an amazing week and I can’t wait for the next competition!
Huge thank you to:
- The ITF England squad and coaches for all your help and support to make it a truely memorable tournament!
- Sylvia Sobota at Nurture Your Body for getting my mind and body in fighting fit order and for being the best friend ever!
- Everyone at Thames Valley Taekwon-Do, in particular Master Whiteley and Mr Dilley for all your support and coaching. You are both superb! I’m very proud to represent you all and bring you home medals!
- The whole team at Nuffield Health for all the support and great classes. In particular Marty Butler for the fantastic PT sessions and improving my fitness, strength, agility, technical skills and footwork to name a few. You’re the best!
Thank you also to my sponsors, your support means the world to me!
Indigo Herbs – I love your superfoods that make up my delicious green smoothies, which I had each morning of the Championship to set me up right to perform at my best each day.
Better You – I love your transdermal magnesium products and used them every day of the Championship to keep my muscles happy. Covering my skin in the oils and adding lots of magnesium flakes to my baths.
Rocktape – while I was dishing out most of the bruises, I have got the odd one or two and being able to get myself healing up so quickly with Rocktape is amazing! Also I taped up a few fellow squad members so they are thankful too!
Veganicity – ensuring I have the best possible quality vitamins and minerals to train to my highest ability is amazing!
Nuun – ensuring I am fully hydrated and replacing all the sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium I’m busy sweating out really helps me to keep training at my best, while also making my water taste delicious.
Here is a promo video from the World Championships and there is a snippet of my sparring at 1.24: https://youtu.be/mdX52AKdmDg
My treat when I got home was a delicious meal cooked for me by my parents and then some delicious raw chocolate!
I saw the below on Instagram today and I have indeed had some amazing changes to my life so far this year. This time last year I still thought I wouldn’t do Taekwon-Do again and now I’m a European and World Championship medallist! I’m excited for what I’ll achieve next and my goals for the next two years are:
- To be the European Champion at the 2016 Championships in Greece in March/April time.
- Then in 2017 the European Championships are in the Echo Arena in Liverpool from the 27th-30th April and I am aiming to defend my European title.
- Then in Aug/Sept 2017 the World Championships will be in DPR Korea, where I’m aiming to be World Champion.
Thank you so much to everyone that has believed in me and helped me believe in myself.