What a whirlwind end to the season, this past month has been totally crazy with a ludicrous number of hours/days spent on the road or more appropriately in the air. Last time I wrote for this blog, I had just returned unsuccessfully from the Rome World Cup. Since then, so much has changed and I have been progressing rapidly up the world ranking and producing some performances that are demonstrating real potential for a great Olympic cycle.
Only a week after Rome I was competing again, this time in Minsk, Belarus where I managed to not only pick up my first ever World Cup medal, I won the whole tournament which set in motion my most successful month in my judo career and catapulted me from way down in 178th in the World Ranking list to inside the top 100.
Off the back of this result, I was selected to compete in Brazil at the World Team Championships for GB and gave a real scare to the European Champion, Liparteliani from Georgia. To everyones surprise including my own I dominated him for three three and a half minutes and was winning up until the last 20 seconds of the fight before making a tactical error and getting caught for a score. I was really pleased as he is one of the most dominant athletes of the past couple of years and I was more than matching him for the most part of the contest.
Only a few days back from Brazil and I was back on my travels again, this time a monumental flight to Samoa consisting of stop offs in LA and Auckland respectively and a total flight time of around 32 hours. The heat and humidity of this tiny island in the middle of no where was intense, which is more than can be said for its people who are some of the most relaxed, easy going and friendly people I have had the pleasure of meeting. Also I now understand why big rugby nations recruit from Samoa as there must be something in the water there, everyone is huge.
Less than a month after my first ever World Cup medal, I found myself fighting for Bronze in the heat in the Samoan World Cup having gotten to the semi final in good form only to come undone against the European Silver medalist from Russia. I was facing a guy from New Zealand who I have lost to previously but this time, possibly due to my new levels of confidence I dominated and eventually caught him on the ground with my trademark headlock turnover. Taking the Bronze medal and jumping to the unchartered territory of the top 50 in the world ranking.
Next year is looking promising and I am excited at the prospect of challenging the top guys in the World and competing in the more prestigious tournaments like the European and World Championships. I am also going to be chasing for a place in the top 30 in the world. To achieve these goals a gruelling and intense winter conditioning program is in order with not a lot of time off for the usual festive season pleasures, although I’m sure one or two mince pies won’t hurt too much on Christmas Day. I still find it crazy to think that only 6 months ago I was ranked 178 in the world, now I am finishing the year sat in 42 with less than 4 years to go until Rio things are looking good.