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44th European Championships Sofia Bulgaria 14-19 February 2017
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The England Junior and Cadet Team have been in Malaysia since Saturday evening and it is Wednesday morning here. They are getting used to the tropical heat and the humidity as this is the 'rainy season'. They are also getting over the jet lag, well all but Ryan 'sleepy' Lambert! The whole squad is really starting to gel together and the commitment is very apparent, especially Lauren Crawford who has had a large Cross of St George shaved and dyed on the back of her head!
The National Kumite Coach, Willie Thomas, and his assistants have managed to instil a very positive mentality into all the competitors. They are receiving inputs on psychology, warming up properly, not wasting time in bouts, as well as what it takes to be great, namely you have to beat someone great! This is all about getting the right motivation and both Jon Mottram, the Kata Coach, and Gavin Pack, as well as Willie, have been having one-to-ones with the team. These have been very well received.
There have been few injuries so far; just a strained knee, back pain and shin splints, so nothing that might affect performance. There are lots of blisters due to the surface of the training area and the heat, but Mo Surdar our Physio is on top of this. The team members are hydrating well, there has been no weight loss and no tummy bugs or ear infections, despite the climate. There is a good variety of food in the hotel and no problems fitting in meals.
The Squad have trained two sessions a day, each for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Sunday was 11AM and straight after lunch, Monday was 8AM and 4PM and Tuesday 8AM and 1PM. We have allocated slots, as do all the countries. The competitors need to learn to take on lots of water and the Head of Delegation, John De Bono, and chaperone, Sean Doyland, have helped out bringing in the huge quantities needed. Some members can lose 1.5 Kgs of body weight in one session and that can affect performance. The newer members have not been used to the necessary fluid intake, but are adjusting well.
The Kata Team have been performing in front of the rest of the Squad, to try and re-create the competition environment and pressure. This is like getting through the first round. The are very impressive indeed. We all know the quality of the opposition they will have to face from the very best in the world.
The interactions between the competitors and the coaches is so positive and the young people are so responsive. Behaviour has been impeccable and has even been commented on by hotel staff. The atmosphere amongst the team is excellent, except Tom Hickman who keeps losing to 14 year old Joe Kellaway, who is half his weight and 2 feet shorter. Watch out Tom, he will be looking to take your place in the Senior Heavyweight division one day!
Today is a wind down day before the competition starts tomorrow. There are other competitions: table football, table tennis and snooker, though I anticipate that the competitiveness will continue there too! Sean Doyland has been 'fined' for poor taste in shorts, though some have noted that he is easy to find when looking for a chaperone! We have also discovered that as well as his Karate skills, Callum Holmes has a splendid singing voice, reminiscent of a young Elvis Presley.
In short, the Team is prepared and as ready as they can be for the World Championships. We are all ready to shout, support and wish them all the luck in the world!
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