Euro Blog | Lucas' Blog
Published 19 February 2016 (AEDT) | Author (incomplete)
It’s been a while since I wrote an update and a lot has been happening. After the national training camp which I wrote about last time and a very short Christmas break it was time to kick off 2016 with a training and competition tour of Europe.
It started in the best way possible. No one likes long haul flights, particularly the ones that take around 14 hours. That said the spontaneous business class upgrade certainly sweetened the deal a lot for me and made certain friends and teammates of mine very jealous. All up it took me a bit over 30 hours to get to my training base for the first week and a half in Pisa where I met the first people who were jealous of my upgrade. I was staying with my girlfriend Anna and William “can’t/won’t ride a bike” Bishop, both New Zealand fencers who were also in Pisa to train. After almost 2 weeks with them in Italy it’s a miracle I escaped without a New Zealand accent. The club in Pisa is very friendly, welcoming and most importantly packed full of excellent fencers for me to train with in the lead up to my first competition of the tour before I met up with the rest of the Australian team in Paris.
In Paris we were lucky enough to train at the French National Training Centre in the lead up to our competition. This gave us some good training against world class teams in preparation for the World Cup later that week, the Challenge International de Paris, a competition many consider to be the hardest in the world. Still our small team was ready for the challenge of facing the best of the best. The individual competition ended up going rather well with three of us including myself putting in personal best results.
This was encouraging as it showed how we are moving in the right direction as a team to achieve better and better results on an international stage. Whilst we fell short of making the final day of competition it looks like those results aren’t far away and we are still a very young team. We spent the second day soaking up the incredible unique atmosphere at this amazing competition and watching the world’s best fighting it out. Unfortunately the team event didn’t go so well, going out to Ukraine by a reasonable margin. Winning team matches in the first round is difficult when seeded so low because you come up against tough teams which also makes these competitions important for improving our ranking.
Following the competition it was time to return to Italy, but not before a couple of days off to explore Paris. I even got a chance to spend a lot of this time with my lovely girlfriend who had come down from Pisa. The break left us feeling fresh and ready throw ourselves into the next challenge. This time we were in Rome where we again had access to some high level training, this time at Frascati Scherma, one of Italy’s top clubs to keep us in form for the next world cup in Germany. Well, the next one for me at least. After a week of training in Rome the junior members of the team went to do a junior world cup in the South of France and I went back to Pisa for more training.
After another week it was time to meet up with the rest of the team again so I travelled to Bologna and then took a short flight to Bonn where we would be staying at the German National Centre in the lead up to the world cup. It’s fair to say that after bouncing around Italian cities for half the trip I’ve grown fairly accustomed to the Italian rail system, something that cannot be said for the juniors and our coach in France who went to the wrong station to catch their train to Germany… Whoops. Anyway they arrived eventually and we spent the week training with various other nations to prepare for this last event, much like in France.
Unfortunately for me the individual competition was one to forget but several other members of the team put in strong performances in the poule stage and were able to achieve similar results to those we attained in Paris. The highlight however, came during the team’s competition. This time we drew Hong Kong, our rivals in the Asian zone who have a much more experienced team and a ranked a fair few places above us. Nevertheless we restricted them to a very close match until the very end, where they stretched the margin to 6 and only needed a point to achieve victory. To steal the win, our teammate Ned Fitzgerald would need to score 7 points in a row against the much more experienced Hong Kong finisher and former Olympian. Fortunately for us that’s exactly what happened. The celebration from everyone was phenomenal.
We were rewarded with a match with Italy, the reigning world champions and whilst we were beaten comfortably it was great fun going up against the best of the best. For the rest of the day we fenced off for places against much more experienced teams and put in a strong performance in each match. We were even able to turn the tables on the Ukrainian team we had lost to just a few weeks earlier, beating them by a small margin to take 14th position. Winning our first match like this on a world scale was a very important step for the team and hopefully one we can replicate on a more consistent basis now.
So what does this all mean in terms of the Olympics? Essentially I’ve managed to hold on to my position as the front runner for the qualification tournament which I will be attending in April in Wuxi, China. The Europe tour has given me some very valuable experience and shown me new areas of my game that I need to focus on in preparation for the competition. The competition itself will be incredibly challenging with fencers from Hong Kong, Kuwait, Singapore, The Philippines, Kazakhstan and more all fighting for one spot in Rio. Should be fun. I’ll be posting an update much sooner next time (when I’m not constantly battling for wifi like I was in Europe) but until then, bye for now.