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51st Senior European Championships, 5-8 May 2016 - Montpellier, France
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Today was the Team Kumite events and England men's team had the daunting prospect of France in the first round. The key feedback from yesterdays disappointments was the temperature in the stadium, since this is the first really hot spell in Tenerife this year. The body armour is an added burden and the athlete areas are seemingly filled with competitors pulling these things away from their body to cool down. Today was even worse, with temperatures of 35 degrees Centigrade recorded in the shade.
The plan was to rely on Ryan Jay and Alton Brown at numbers 4 and 5, but it wasn't to be. Lee Heath went out first and was unable to get the measure of his French opponent, losing 6-0. Next up was Jordan Thomas who lost 3-0 to Damian Dona, the current European Individual Champion. All our hopes rested on Gavin Bailey who fought unbelievably against a very fit and determined opponent. Gavin was leading 2-0 and despite clearly being exhausted, managed a whole minute of 'Chinese Drunken Monkey' style avoidance of innumerable attacks. The French opponent pulled one back, but it seemed like Gavin would be able to hand over to Ryan and Alton, until a small mistake with 10 seconds of the fight left allowed the Frenchman to score a take-down and eliminate England. It is all so close at that level. France went on to lose to the very impressive Azerbaijan team who then fought one of the most incredible team matches ever witnessed against Turkey. The subliminal Rafael Aghayev won 8-0, but one of the Turkish fighters also won 8-0 and the last fight was the decider. At 7-7 with 10 seconds to go, the Azrbaijan competitor scored 3 points, to seemingly wrap up the match, when his Turkish opponent managed a fantastic take-down to make it 10-10 and Turkey had scored more points all together to go through. Unbelievable.
The ladies were without former Junior World Champion, Katie Hurry. Katie had injured her knee yesterday and spent the day being ferried all over the island, firstly for another medical examination and referral and then to have an MRI scan and diagnosis. The good news is that her injury, though serious, is not thought to be as bad we first feared. She has showed considerable bravery as she is some pain and we all wish her a speedy recovery.
In the first round, England were drawn against Romania. Natalie Williams was up first and drew 1-1. Carla Burkitt was next and also drew 0-0, leaving the talented but inexperienced Siobhan Hayes to come through 1-0. England looked much more dominant than the scores suggested. The second round was against the Netherlands, a strong team. Siobhan went first this time and drew 0-0. She was followed by Carla who also drew 0-0. The third fight saw Natalie draw 0-0 too, until a lapse with 10 seconds to go let her opponent in. It is so close. Holland went on to the Semi-Final where they met Turkey who also won with 10 seconds to go. The standard was so high and the teams so closely matched that England could easily have gone all the way. This bodes well for the World Championships in Paris in November.
A day of rest tomorrow and then we see Jonathan Mottram in the Kata finals. No pressure then Jonathan!
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