WORLD KARATE CHAMPIONSHIP 2014
IGUASSU FALLS, BRAZIL
After months and months of hard training, fundraising, competition practise and organising it was finally time to go. Here’s a day by day breakdown of my unforgettable trip to Brazil with the England Karate Team to compete in the World Karate Championships 2014.
Day 1: Having met up with other members of the England Karate Team at 4am on a chilly Sunday morning we flew off to Rio with a quick stop in Amsterdam. The flights were long but good company made the time fly and we landed in the hustle bustle of Rio at 10pm UK time (6pm local time). It was fascinating en-route to the hotel to see some of the local area, from a far off view of Christ the Redeemer statue to the local roadside poverty stricken Favelas. The hotel was in an ‘interesting’ looking area and we were advised by the clerk to not leave the hotel grounds which given how tired we all were suited us fine. Communication was tricky but we eventually managed to all get checked in and grab something to eat before falling into bed ready for another early start.
Day 2: Up at 5am to head back to the airport, traffic was awful and made the M25 on a bad
day look easy! Luckily we left plenty of time and just managed to make the flight on to our final destination of Iguassu Falls near the Argentinian border. We arrived at 2.30pm and were eager to finally reach our hotel for the next 7 days, unpack and settle in. The hotel was basic but clean and had a nice pool area which, as tempting as swimming and sunbathing would be, we were all quick to utilise as a training space! That evening the team met up and went by taxi’s to the Stadium where the competition was being held. It was nerve wracking walking in there for the first time, seeing how large it was and getting a feel for standing in the competition area when it was eerily quiet, knowing full well that
in 4 days time when we re-entered it was going to be very different. Practise was tough, it was very hot and we were all still tired from travelling but it felt good to be ‘in the zone’ and getting mentally and physically prepped for the competition. After training we headed back to the hotel for a quick shower and dinner before bed.
Day 3: 4am and I’m wide awake thanks to jet lag!! Today we were going to visit the longest chain of waterfalls in the World, take a walk through the jungle and a boat ride under the falls. We were up early for breakfast and had an amazing day, the waterfalls were beautiful and when you’re underneath them in a small boat quite exhilarating too! Personally, I wasn’t so keen on the jungle walk but then anyone who knows me will be well aware of my spider phobia and apparently they can be rather large in Brazil! Thankfully I didn’t see any spiders but we did see some of the other local wildlife which was great. We headed back to the hotel mid-afternoon and spent a couple of hours training on kata and kumite before dinner and bed.
Day 4: 4am and wide awake…. Again!! We were going to Argentina to see the waterfalls from the top today. It was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. Walkways ran across the top of the falls so in places we got very damp from all the spray and it gave us a whole new perspective on the power of nature! It was great to be able to spend some time socially with other members of the team and get to know them better. Mid afternoon we headed back to the hotel again for some training. My focus was working on team kata with my fellow teammates Tricia Jordan and Lynne Aston.
Day 5: Waking up at 4am everyday is really taking its toll and I’m shattered! Nerves really start kicking in today as the start of the competition is looming. Lots of fine tuning on the training and a visit to one of the other official hotels where registration and weigh in is taking place. All the team made the correct weights on weigh in, showed passports to the officials to confirm eligibility to compete for England and all entries have been confirmed. There are lots of other competitors in attendance for registration as well so it gave us our first look at who we may be up against. Back to the stadium in the evening for the Opening ceremony. This involves all competitors marching into the stadium behind their national flag and presenting themselves to the officials. Lots of official speeches were made (not all were easy to understand due to the different nationalities) and then we were treated to an impressive demonstration of team kata and bunkai by the Brazillian mens and womens teams.
Day 6: First day of competition. The hardest part of the day was waiting, we were up early and feeling nervous but the team events didn’t start until 4pm so it was a fine balance today to keep occupied but not overdo it. Some light practice, lunch and a final bag check to make sure that everything was packed and ready to go then we were off! When we arrived at the stadium there were lots of other competitors already there and the atmosphere was friendly but intense. Everyone was ready to compete and keen to get underway. England had teams in most events including, womens and mens rotation, womens and mens sanbon, mens ippon and ippon rotation and womens kata. Despite everyone’s best efforts by the end of the evening the feeling was that we had underperformed and only had 3 of the teams through to the finals on Sunday. These were the mens ippon, mens ippon rotation and womens kata teams. The kata team were headed into the finals in 4th place which was a good result as the competition organisers chose to mix senior and veteran teams which made the competition a lot more difficult than last year. Although a gold or silver was unlikely a bronze medal was within reach – lots to work on before Sunday to make sure we got it! By the end of the evening there were more than a few bumps and bruises to show for the teams efforts and some low spirits to contend with. The standard of competitors was impressively high and it’s easy to let this eat away at your confidence, however we were all keen to step up our game for the individual events the next day and do our best to bring home the medals.
Day 7: Second day of competition. Very early start for me as kata competitors needed to be ready to start at 8.30am. This meant that we were away from the hotel at 7.30am to allow time to get to the venue, get changed and warm-up. Not that that was too much of a problem for me as I was still managing to wake up at 4am anyway! England had 3 competitors in the female veterans kata (including myself). All did well with Tricia Jordan going through to the finals in 6th place, Lisa Lethridge going through in joint 4th place and me in 1st place with a 0.1 lead over the next competitor from Brazil. I performed Seienchin kata and overall was fairly happy with my performance although the group was mixed kata styles and I felt like the Shotokan katas seemed to be scoring generally better than Shitoryu which meant I needed to make some tough decisions as to which kata to perform in the finals. Kumite events were all being held in the afternoon and I really enjoyed watching and supporting all the England competitors in their events. I’m happy to say we had a really successful day overall with 7 of the team making finals day in individual events. The atmosphere was amazing – the Argentinians, Brazillians and Italians were particularly vocal in support of their teams and the noise was tremendous! The mosquitos and wasps were out in force too which was not so pleasant! It was so lovely to escape the stadium that evening and head back to the hotel for a shower. Most of the team ended up in the pool as a makeshift ice bath to ease tired, sore muscles, bumps and bruises. So far things had felt tough and we all knew tomorrow was going to be the hardest yet.
Day 8: Final competition day. I don’t think I slept at all during the night, I have never felt so nervous in my life! To go into the finals in first place is a good feeling but it was a very small lead and I knew if I chose the wrong kata to perform or made a tiny mistake my dreams of being World Champion for a second time would be over. Having spoken to Sensei Ian Cuthbert, I decided that I would stick with my favourite kata Anan, I would perform it the way I have trained and not try and second guess what the judges were wanting to see.
It was very tense waiting for my event to be called, we were asked to draw a number from a bag to decide what order we would compete in and unlucky for me I was number 6. This meant I had to wait and watch all the other competitors go ahead of me. I spent most of the time pacing the floor at the edge of the competition area and it was very difficult to hold my nerve and not lose my confidence when the others performed and scored well, I knew I was going to have to do a faultless kata if I was going to win. I remember feeling like I was shaking like a leaf when my name was called and I stepped on the mat but all the hard training kicked in and it was like going on auto-pilot, my body knew what to do and at the end I felt like I had done well, but would it be good enough? Scores were called and they seemed quite good but I didn’t know what all the other competitors had received so still didn’t know the final result.
When it was over all the finalists for the event lined up at the side of the mat. Placings were called out in reverse order from fourth to first. When they called out second place and it wasn’t me I knew I’d either done really badly and blown it completely or got the gold. I have to say hearing my name called out and realising I’d done it was such a huge relief, I was ecstatic!! Medals would be given out at the medal ceremony later in the day but I was so happy that it was over and I’d done it, I didn’t actually care about the medal at that point! I still had the team kata final to do but I felt like a massive weight had been lifted and I can honestly say I really enjoyed getting back on the mat for the team event. We pulled our best effort out and managed a bronze medal with a good performance of Niseishi which really rounded off the event for me in the best way possible. The other English finalists did really well in their events with a gold medal for Lynne Aston in the veterans kumite, a silver for Shauna Carroll in the senior female kumite, gold for Garrick Eastwood and Dan Cuthbert for mens individual kumite in their respective weight categories and two further gold medals for the mens ippon and ippon rotation teams.
The medal ceremony was long and I just remember grinning like a Cheshire cat when my turn came to stand on the podium. By the end I think each and every one of the team was more than ready to head back to the hotel, sit by the pool and then go out and celebrate an amazing day.
Coming home: The day after the competition ended we were up early once again and headed back to the airport. We were all shattered but it felt good to not have the stress and pressure of competition anymore. We landed back in Rio early afternoon and spent the next two days enjoying some of the local sights. I walked along Copacabana beach, took the cable car up Sugar Loaf Mountain and went up the mountain to see the Christ the Redeemer statue. I feel very lucky to have had the chance to go and compete, see the places I did and have such an amazing experience but it was really good to come home and see my family and friends. Now back to training hard ready for the next one 😉
Written by Lindsey Andrews