I am currently sat on my return flight from the Rome World Cup reflecting on a tournament with some of the best fighters the world has to offer. The scary thing is that it only gets tougher from here on in for the lead up to the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Rome was originally the penultimate competition prior to an intense training block in preparation for competitions later in the year, continuing with Minsk this Friday for another World Cup competition. It seems the British Judo Association had other ideas and upon arrival in Rome I received an e-mail congratulating me on my selection for the World Team Championships in Brazil in less than three weeks time (even more weight watching required).
Anyway back to Rome; the preparation has been fantastic starting with a long summer conditioning block and more recently a week long training camp with members of the Polish National Team in Gdansk. Tough training sessions were broken up by skim boarding and volleyball matches on the beach (I never said the life of an athlete didn’t have its perks!)
I competed in two tournaments after training weeks in order to sharpen my competition skills. The first was the Welsh open in which I took the Gold medal defeating some talented and strong young opposition and the second was a European Cup in Finland. I had some tough battles in Finland winning my first three fights to make it to the semi-final where I had to face one of the Polish fighters I had been training with only 10 days earlier. This fight was intense and had quite a few blood stoppages, the fight ended up going the distance and I narrowly lost out on a split decision; I fully intend on beating him next time we meet! All in all it has been good preparation for this new Olympic cycle and getting to the top 22 in the world.
The first of the two consecutive World Cup tournaments was this weekend in Rome flying out earlier than the rest of the team on Friday. Having kept my mind off making weight by sweating it out with the thousands of tourists at the Vatican I made weight very easily, weighing a light 89kg (1kg under the limit). My first fight was against an Italian, which is never easy in Italy as the crowds are pretty biased! Nonetheless I managed to win in time by virtue of being the more dominant and aggressive of the two throughout the bout. My second fight was against a highly ranked Serbian whom within a minute I had thrown and secured an arm lock, of which he refused to tap from. I know this sounds rather brutal and thuggish but in this instance (whereby he wouldn’t tap) I have to admit I was trying to put enough pressure on his elbow joint to snap it… but that also didn’t seem to want to give in! Unfortunately, after my efforts to finish the fight early on, this Serbian opponent proved rather crafty and caught me with a lovely drop throw for Ippon (outright win in Judo) and sent me in for an early bath whilst he collected a bronze medal.
The highs and lows of the competition day (along with making the weight) usually drains a fighter and soon after the competition was over, I returned to my hotel for some comfort food and a nice cold beer. I will take some time to lick my wounds before getting back to training in preparation for next weekend and for it all to start over again. It just so happens that my flight back was pretty late in the day so a nice tour of the beautiful city of Rome with a very supportive girlfriend (who was more nervous than me prior to the competition) was a welcomed distraction from the disappointing result.
Sorry for the long winded blog, I am new to this and I hope next time I am writing (probably from Brazil) I will have happier stories to tell.