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51st Senior European Championships, 5-8 May 2016 - Montpellier, France
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All England's hopes were now with Jonathan Mottram in the repechage final of the Individual Mens Kata against current World Champion, the legendary Luca Valdesi of Italy. No pressure, then! It was always going to be difficult to win this one, but Jon performed a magnificent Gojushiho-sho. Unfortunately, Valdesi got the decision in what the Italian claims will be his last World Championships before retiring. Jon's performance must be put into context, though, by remembering that there a no weight categories in Kata, so only one individual event. It is also reassuring how many expressions of admiration were received from National Federation Presidents and members of the WKF Executive for the quality of Jon's performance. He is still young enough to have a number of international events ahead of him and still has the potential to dominate this discipline on the world stage. We are all very proud of him.
This was the first of two days of finals. These are on a single raised platform in the middle of the huge arena which has been packed all day. Every bout today is under extreme pressure and the crowd is deafening. An unfortunate comment by Karim Al-Gouneid has led to a long running joke. Karim said the words: "Only a Bronze" and the rest of the team have not let him forget it, in the face of the staggering standard of the encounters we are watching.
Last night the Team had a positive de-briefing session. It has been recognised by everyone that Karate is changing. Our athletes no-longer just need to be good at Karate, they need to be stronger and fitter and (as Assistant Coach Paul Newby identified) more inventive. Kumite Head Coach Willie Thomas has some clear ideas about more informal meetings with Squad members and additional supplementary training our athletes need to do. He has ideas to progress a sport development plan. We have to compete with countries that send their most promising 16-17 year olds to specialised academies. The Olympics showed our national potential and we need to plan to do what is necessary for Karate to emulate other sports.
Now that the pressure is off for the England Team, they can enjoy the interesting demonstrations that intersperse the events and gain as much inspiration and as many ideas as they can from the bouts this week end.
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