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51st Senior European Championships, 5-8 May 2016 - Montpellier, France
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The first and most fantastic news: we have a World Champion, the first since the EKF was set up. Thomas Hickman's performance was unbelievable in the under 76Kg category, arguably one of the hardest. Tom began from the start of his first bout looking like a champion, showing all kinds of techniques from kicks to sweeps to long, fast punches. His first opponent from India had no answer and with another minute to go looked as if he wished he was somewhere else!
Tom demolished his opponents in such spectacular form that all the spectators were applauding him. He even beat a very strong Russian without faltering. His semi final opponent was an outstanding Slovenian, who looked very dangerous, but Tom remained calm, fought energetically and didn't let him settle. When he made it to the final, the whole England squad jumped on him; it was wonderful to see the team spirit and a shame we did not take a picture. In the final against an Egyptian competitor, Tom came straight out and scored with a punch to the head. His opponent tried to pull level, but Tom kept moving and then executed a spectacular combination where he took the Egyptian to the ground and followed up with a punch for 3 points. Tom kept moving and not allowing his opponent to prepare an attack, scoring another point to take the world title 5-0. The whole squad ran from the far side of the stadium to congratulate him and his parents were there to see it too. It was a priceless moment for everyone.
One funny thing was that Tom was so anxious to change into his tracksuit for the medal presentation and perhaps so elated at the result that he didn't go to the changing room, but did so in the middle of the warm-up area. No-one minded!
The unity of the squad and the support they are showing towards each other has been a real highlight of this event. It was easy to know that an England competitor was about to go on because the stadium echoed with: "Let's go England let's go!". Even the waiters in the hotel are starting to sing that! When Tom won, numerous National Federation Presidents came to congratulate England on their performance. These included the Russian, Moldovan and French Presidents. The President of the French Federation, Francis Didier, spoke with EKF President, Carl Lindley and complimented him on the performance of the England squad, stating that a few years ago England was not the force it had once been, but it was now apparent that we now had a very powerful base in our young competitors to re-establish ourselves. Carl thanked him and seeing that he was leaving, cheekily asked him if he was not staying to hear God Save the Queen. The answer was not recorded!
Another excellent performance was that of Sophie Santillo on her first international as part of the England team. Sophie fought her way into the last 8 to lose to Japanese finalist. In the second bout of the repercharge, she scored with a great kick to the head as the other girl attacked and with literally a second to go, at 3-3, had a lapse on concentration and gave away a point. It looked like lack of experience and possibly thinking about the extension. She is still a great force for the future.
Almost exactly the same thing happened to Jack Lowe in the first round. He was fighting a German opponent and it was 0-0, with each seemingly cancelling each other out. Again, with one second to go, the German attacked and scored. His opponent did not make the final so no repercharge.
The impact of close scoring was also seen in the kata. Aimee Sell came up against a Spanish competitor and lost by the closest and most painful of margins, 3-2. The girl who beat her was already a Senior European Champion and went on to win the Bronze. Again, it shows the depth and potential England has now developed.
Navin Patel lost in the kata to and excellent Italian opponent. Countries like Spain and Italy have led the world in kata for a long time, but England will soon be beating them.
Lauren Crawford looked very good, beating a Russian to take her into the last 16. She then fought a girl from Kazakhstan and, despite lots of heart, couldn't quite turn effort into points. She is another excellent prospect for the future and it was a shame not to see her Cross of St George hairstyle in the final!
Alfie Ambrose also made the last 16, losing out to a Greek opponent. Alfie is another fighter with good prospects.
All in all, despite a couple of frustrating results, another historic day for the EKF. English Karate is definitely looking promising!
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