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44th European Championships Sofia Bulgaria 14-19 February 2017
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After the performances of Mitchell Thorpe and Fran Hardcastle yesterday the squad were buoyant and inspired as they headed towards the impressive Meo Stadium situated less than 100 meters from the steps of the squad hotel.
Kata athlete Natalie Payne was first out onto the tatami. Natalie performed Chatanyara Kushanku against a Belarussian opponent who showed her class by beating Natalie 4 -1 and storming through to the finals. This allowed Natalie to come back into the repecharge beating her Ukrainian opponent 3-2 with Annan. The next round saw Natalie perform Supa Empi against a German losing 5 -0.
Next out was Chris Karwacinski against a French athlete and current Championship medallist. Chris was unfazed and executed Unsu with focus and excellent form. Unfortunately his opponent was that little sharper on the day and took the flags 5 – 0.
Aaron Kiernan was the first of the fighters to hit the tatami after an impressive opening ceremony. His tough Macedonian opponent was unable to match Aarons tenacity and was beaten 6 – 3 in a difficult fight. Aarons next match against Hungary had the English fighter firing from the start but after a number of vigorous exchanges Aaron lost out 6-3.
Alex Jones followed with the same conviction. Again his opponent just had that little bit more and took Alex out 5-0 and continued in this fashion to the final. Alex was now back in via the repecharge but was unable to get the measure of his Bosnian opponent and lost 1 -0.
Leigh Mathieson was another débutante this championship coming out against a French opponent. Leigh showed he had the will and desire to compete at this level but was continually beaten to the punch by a microsecond. Unfortunately at this level that is the difference and he lost out 5-0.
Emily Appleby now into her second championships had clearly gone back and worked on her coaches instructions from the world championships. She came out against her Croatian opponent and just gave her a lesson in timing, control and technique. She won 7 – 3 and then blasted out her Portuguese opponent 3 -0 in exactly the same accomplished manner. Emily’s Ukrainian opponent in the next round was a more formidable opponent not allowing Emily to settle and scoring body and head kicks in quick time, amassing 8 points and putting Emily out. However her opponents charge to the final gave Emily another chance to progress in the repercharge. Her Bosnian opponent however had other ideas and was quickly on Emily picking up points and not letting Emily gain any momentum. She was beaten 7 – 1 but gained valuable experience and confidence that will benefit England in the near future.
Our last competitor for the day Joe Kellaway had an Austrian opponent. Unfortunately Joe was unable to take advantage of his superior takedowns and kicks and the Austrian nicked a point back off Joe and won on flags.
So the day ends with no medals but plenty of self reflection for the athletes and evaluation for the coaches. The final day will see England start afresh with a confident squad and the coaching staff, Willie Thomas, Paul Newby and Jon Mottram preparing the athletes for a final onslaught on the medal table.
Greg Francis – HOD
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