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43rd Junior, Cadet & 8th U21 European Championships, Limassol, Cyprus, 5-7 Februrary 2016
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The name of this place is spelled differently all over the place. Sometimes it is Melaka, Maleka and even Melacca, even on posters. We don't mind as the pressure is now off, the England Team has achieved what we hoped we would achieve and today has been a day of rest, an unexpected bonus since availability of flights have meant that we cannot leave until tomorrow morning.
The chaperones have been working very hard and have had little sleep, so it was an opportunity for them to have a well-earned rest. Nearly all the squad and coaches went to the famous Melaka Zoo and not wishing to be an advertisement, it was a splendid couple of hours. We saw orangutans not caged and in the trees above us and were able to pass them large leaves to eat. The squad were able to feed and stroke orphaned baby elephants. This was so educational, learning about conservation and the plight of these creatures in the wild, some compensation perhaps for missing school to be here! It seemed that some monkeys had escaped, but we were told that these are wild monkeys that hang around the zoo for scraps of food.
Tiredness took it's toll and perhaps one of the funniest moments of the trip occurred as we got back from the zoo. National Coach, Willie Thomas, had fallen sound asleep on the coach and everyone got off without him realising. Someone who shall remain nameless, though his initials might be SD, mischievously asked the bus driver to pull away then banged on the window as he did so. Willie's reaction was priceless and when he had got over the shock was still laughing some time afterwards. This showed the humour, sense of unity and atmosphere there has been amongst the squad throughout this trip, why it has been so enjoyable and perhaps even why we have been so successful!
The afternoon was spent shopping for souvenirs or relaxing by the pool which had previously been off limits to the squad to avoid the risk of small infections that might affect performance. The coaches were able to give one-to-one feedback to each team member to discuss their performance. Before the trip Willie had gone through the form every member of the team had shown in recent events and in pre-training, culminating in a confidential prediction of the result each would achieve. It was uncanny just how accurate these turned out to be, showing the benefits of scientific assessment. This formed the basis of the feedback, so that each competitor knows what he or she needs to work on and how they can develop to the maximum of their potential.
After dinner, a opportunity for more squad bonding through the challenge of karaoke. Jonathan Mottram made a valiant attempt, but no-one could have imagined the professionalism of Davin Pack's rendition of 'Angels'. He is a candidate for The X Factor! His performance was impossible to follow. Only Callum Holmes had the temerity to try with a passionate version of 'Love Me Tender' that brought the house down.
The EKF is now focusing on the Junior and Cadet European Championships in Azerbaijan in February 2012. We need to keep the sense of national identity and the hunger for success this trip has shown exists in English Karate. If we can manage a fraction of that unity and hunger, we are likely to repeat our successes at future events.
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