For Mr and Mrs Swain the trip began, and ended, in many travel related headaches – from cancelled flights to delayed baggage and very late nights/early mornings! Not the best preparation for a European Championships, however using a professional approach and “compartmentalisation” they made sure this didn’t affect their performances at the competition.
After arriving in Maribor on Tuesday the team had the opportunity to have a light training session at Master Barada’s dojang, the home of many international champions. The hotels swimming pool and Sauna were also used to refresh the legs after travelling. On Wednesday morning ITF-England had their registration slot, with all members of the team making weight first time – a relief for some who could then have their late breakfast; in the afternoon we had another training session at Master Barada’s and a bit of down time before the competition started on Thursday morning!
The first day of competition saw Mr and Mrs Swain compete in Traditional Sparring and both their respective patterns categories; all on the raised centre stage! Traditional sparring was their first event, shortly before lunch. After beating the pair from Belarus in their first match, they lost to the Norwegian pair in the semi-finals – earning a Bronze medal, England’s first medal of the competition! Female 4th-6th Degree patterns was the first category on after lunch, with Mrs Swain easing past competitors from Ireland and Poland on her way to the final. Mrs Swain took home a well earned Silver medal, coming up against a multi time World and European Champion (Silvia Farigu) from Italy. The last event of the day was the Male 4th-6th Degree Patterns; Mr Swain beat competitors from Israel in Round 1, Ireland in Round 2 (on an additional pattern after a draw!) then Poland in the semi final, after which he was told he’d have to wait until the Gala Finals Night on Saturday for his last round. The other finalist was 3x European Champion, and multi-time World Medalist Lylian Doulay of France. Under the lights on centre stage Mr Doulay took his 4th European title, meaning Mr Swain matched Mrs Swains silver!
Sunday was the day for Team Events, with Mr Swain being drafted into the Men’s sparring team shortly before flying to Slovenia! First up for England was Ireland – reigning and multiple time World Team Sparring champions… With some clever coaching decisions England were victorious and into the semi finals against Russia. Unfortunately that is where the road ended with the Men’s Team claiming a hard fought bronze medal, taking Mr Swains tally to 3 medals – and some light hearted bragging rights over Mrs Swain, for once!
An honourable mention must be given to Mr Gould (competing in his first European Championships) and Miss Hodson; both of whom gave it their all against some very strong competition. Unfortunately no medals for them this time, although they both have promising futures ahead of them!
In total ITF England took home 8 Medals: 1 Gold, 3 Silver, and 5 Bronze! Plenty to build on for the World Championships in April 2019!