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51st Senior European Championships, 5-8 May 2016 - Montpellier, France
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It has been an historic day for England in Malaysia, but today has also had it's share of frustrations.
First the best news: we have picked up a medal in the kata. We have been trying to check, but believe this is the first world medal in kata this country has ever picked up. Helen Raye won at the Europeans and Jonathan Mottram came 4th in the Worlds. Today Emma Lucraft (photo right) took a Bronze. Emma looked confident and showed strength and poise, taking her through to the semi-final where she was pipped by an outstanding Japanese competitor. In the repercharge, she won 5-0 and showed how far the EKF has come. Jon Mottram, our Kata Coach, actually jumped over the barrier when she won the last bout, perhaps forgetting that he had undertaken to shave his head if we won a kata medal.......if we win another, his eyebrows might have to go too! Joking aside, congratulations to Emma and well done to Jon.
The other kata entrant today was Alex Gardner who was unlucky to draw the Japanese competitor in the first round. He then lost the repercharge on the most narrow split decision. He still looked good and did us proud. He is fast and has the presence to be successful in the future.
Ryan Jay is already a European Champion and world medal holder. He looked slick and in control through the first rounds, then fought an awkward Turkish competitor and the match went to time. Though never really looking like he could beat Ryan, this fighter threw a lot of short techniques in the last minute of extra time and was awarded the match on a split decision. The Turkish competitor went out in a later round, denying Ryan a shot in the repercharge. This was a great disappointment for Ryan and everyone else. We all know how good Ryan is and we know he will bounce back strongly from this.
Michael Burke went out in the first round to a Dutch fighter. Michael looked as if the pressure of the occasion had been a barrier and that he tried too hard. This happens and it is valuable learning. What has been great is to see how much support the English team gives to each other. We are clearly the loudest and most united group. Callum Holmes today admitted to be suffering from nerves, even though he doesn't fight until Saturday!
Some of the teasing has been really funny, such as giving a hungry group lots of McDonalds that turned out to be empty boxes.....now that was heartless!
Another disappointing result was for Stephanie Thorndick. She looked fast, rangy and confident. She sailed into the last eight to meet a good Austrian girl that didn't seem as good as her. Stephanie dominated the first half of the fight and always looked in control, until her opponent took the lead with what looked like a 'short technique' that none of the Flag Judges acknowledged and was given by the Referee. Stephanie immediately tried hard to get the point back and in doing so, walked on to a head kick. It proved too much of a deficit to catch up, though she kept fighting hard to the end. It was a shame as she had a good chance of a medal. The Austrian opponent then met one of the most outstanding and spectacular stars of the day, a Turkish girl who had beaten her 3rd round Australian opponent 10-0 in 52 seconds! In short, no repercharge.
The team kept their positive approach and bought various items from the stands in the stadium. Callum Holmes tried on a tee-shirt to gasps of admiration from the stall assistant. He then put his other shirt back on, prompting clear admiration from an assistant on another stall. If only they could hear him sing, they would have been truly smitten!
There were very few injuries. The stress of watching teammates compete was truly nail biting.
Two other England Team members competed today. Chloe Sheldon was disqualified for excessive contact, perhaps the stress of the event, and Ryan Lambert lost a close match to a skilful and rangy fighter from Montenegro. Ryan then did not quite manage to get through the repercharge.
A good day for English Karate, but an unfortunate one for a number that were clearly unlucky. The day was hard, with hot weather and an early start. The Opening Ceremony was disappointing as it was an hour late in starting and dragged on with long speeches, that made the finals very late.
Still, we look forward eagerly to tomorrow, not only to see Jon Mottram's hair, or lack of it! If the squad stays as it is, this can only bode well for the future of English Karate.
Well done to Willie and his assistance in getting them all looking so fit and so ready.
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