2017 ITF Open European Championships
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On Wednesday 22nd February, students from Region 1 travelled out to Rome to compete in the 2017 ITF Open European Championships. Members of the team included; Reece Nicholls, Jason Morrison, Ryan Meredith, Katie Hetherington, Dolci Grove, Balaj Hussain, Leonard Liboro and support from parents and Team Coach Matthew Brunger.

Arriving two days before the competition was scheduled to commence, the team had a great opportunity to explore the local scenery and venture into Rome to seek some last minute inspiration as the team of TKD gladiators explored the coliseum.

Day 1

Weigh-ins done, it was time for the competition to begin. Kick starting the day for the UK Team was Katie and Dolci in the Junior Female II Degree patterns Division. Looking Confident for start to finish and sharp in their movements, the girls made light work of the competition earning their place in a UK Vs UK final. After a close contest, Katie took the gold with Dolci falling just short yet receiving a well-deserved silver medal.

Looking to continue the medal haul was Ryan Meredith and Jason Morrison in the Junior Male II Degree patterns……and they did not disappoint. In similar style both lads outshone their competition to earn their spots in the final. The result almost too close to call, Jason was crowned the victor with Ryan falling just short of the top spot.

The final team members to step onto the mat and perform patterns were Balaj and Leonard in the I Degree Junior Tul Division. Competing in a very  big group we all knew this was going to be tough to win. Growing in confidence each round, both Leonard and Balaj were drawn against one another in the semi-finals. Knowing this was going to be a close match-up, the crowd watched on in ore as they awaited the result. Unfortunately for Balaj, Leonard took the win and progressed into the finals to take his second consecutive patterns gold in an International outing.

Patterns finished, it was time to move onto sparring. Up first was Ryan against a very explosive forward fighter. With a clear game plan set to work his angle and counter with strong hands, Ryan put in an exceptional performance to outclass his opponent. Competing in the same division was Leonard Liboro. Stepping up a weight class this was a new challenge for Leonard which he took in his stride. Matched against a very technical Italian opponent, both fighters used their speed and footwork to try and gain the advantage. To close to call, the result was deemed a draw. After a further minute of additional time, the two fighters were again impossible to separate. ‘1st point wins’ was next on the cards to determine the winner. With an explosive turning kick to the body, the fight was stopped and Leonard was crowned the victor. Once again onto an all UK final, Ryan and Leonard demonstrated a great display of competitive sparring with Ryan taking the final win and top spot on the podium.

Next up to compete was Katie in the Junior Female Light weight sparring. After an ‘edge of your seat’ performance in her fist fight against an equally matched Slovenian opponent, Katie secured the win and progressed into the finals to face Italy. Relaxed into her performance, Katie entered the ring with confidence and determination to win. Taking the fight to her opponent, Katie’s lead leg side kick proved too much to handle and as the final bell was struck it was clear that Katie dominated the fight to take her second gold of the day.

Balaj was next to step into the ring. Looking to continue in the success of his team member, Balaj made light work of his first opponent, using his strength and fitness to outwork and overpower his opposition. First fight done and Balaj had made his way to the semi-finals. Flying out of the blocks, Balaj looked to control the centre of the ring and dominate the fight. Against a well school opponent Balaj was up on the score card the whole fight until a couple last second high kicks swayed the result of the fight, leaving Balaj with a hard fought bronze medal.

The last competitor of the day to fight was Jason Morrison. Making light work of his opponents on his journey to the finals Jason was faced with an equally matched Ukrainian opponent. Trading kick for kick from the start of the fight till the end, Jason had to unfortunately concede the win and take second place in what was a very crowd pleasing final.

Day 2

Well rested and ready for the second day of competition, the team arrived early to begin warming up and mentally preparing for task ahead of them. Day two saw the individual adult events take place as well as our junior boy’s competing against team Italy and Ukraine.

Up first and representing UK ITF was Dolci Grove. Stepping up from a junior to adult is never easy, and at the age of only 14 years, we knew this would be a real challenge for such a young competitor. Against a very power counter attack fighter in her first outing, Dolci dominated her opponent with strong side-kicks and axe kicks to the head. This was a great start for Dolci, giving her confidence as she progressed to the next bout. Against a very internationally respected fighter from Holland, Dolci was clear on what she had to do, use her size and power to force her opponent onto the back foot. Executed to perfection, Dolci stuck to her game plan and secured the win. Bruised, battered but now into the finals, Dolci was prepared for a real battle. Facing an experienced fighter from Italy, who we knew would have the strength advantage, Dolci had to keep her guard tight and work of the lead leg side kick. Round one done and up on points, Dolci began to grow in confidence and by the end of the second round was up on all umpire score cards and without doubt the new Open European Champion. Facing world class opposition at only 14 years of ages, we are sure that Dolci is destined for a great future on the competition circuit.

Up next was Reece Nicholls competing in the adult male middle weight category. After 2 long days of coaching Reece was ready to step into the ring and spar. After making light work of his first two opponents using his trademark side kick and relentless barrage of punches, Reece had made his way to the finals. As soon as the fight began we all knew was going to be a war of technique vs power. Leading the first round, Reece began to work out his opponent, using the lead leg to stop the forward fighter and counter with hands when pushed onto the back foot.  After a close final round the win unfortunately didn’t go the way of Reece who had to take 2nd place on this occasion.

To end the championships the centre ring ran a junior team league event…UK VS UKRAINE VS ITALY. From watching the competitors the day prior we were all excited to watch as the juniors battled it out for the title of ‘team champions’. A member down we knew this was going to be an uphill battle for our boys. Facing Italy in the first round, the boys narrowly lost 3-2 against what was a very strong and experienced team. Next we were called to vs Ukraine. Again a member down we needed to make every fight count. Giving 100% in every bout the boys were disappointed to lose 4-1 but positive in the performance. We know this has been a great experience for the team and will leave them even more fired up for the next big event.  

Written by: Trenic TKD - 2nd March 2017

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