The Karate England National squad travelled to Lignano, Italy for the 2011 World Senior/Veterans Championships with nearly 50 people. With coaches Abdu Shaher, Ian Cuthbert, Glen Middleton, Julia Heenan, John Anderson (Snr) and Phil Jones, officials Sonia Powell and Geoff Marks, a squad of 26 athletes and numerous supporters.
The venue was the Olympic village in Lignano, an impressive complex of swimming pools, sports halls and hotel blocks situated as close to the beach as you could possibly get.
With the coaches and officials arriving early for the two day refereeing/coaching seminar there was time to look around, admire the superb sport hall, find restaurants and take brief trips to Venice some 70k away.
Having attended some 35 European and World Championships (WUKF, WUKO and WKF) over the last 25 years I would have to say that if you took into account all aspects, venue, location, presentation, organisation and above all standard of competitors, it was up there with the very best.
The first day was individual kata and veterans kata and kumite , followed by male and female team rotation (both Ippon and Sanbon). Just to clarify, athletes can be entered into shobu sanbon individual or Ippon individual but not both. They can also enter ippon or sanbon team events but not both.
Karate England had teams in both male ippon/rotation and sanbon/rotation events but only female sanbon/rotation.
In the veterans sections the men’s events had 3 different age sections (35-40 , 40-45 and over 45 years) and all three section were very busy. So busy in fact that at the Presidents Congress it was agreed to add a fourth section for over 50 yrs such is the interest in male Veterans.
In the female veterans Karate England had several competitors but it was Patience Kakitie from Phil Patrick s club in Oxford that kicked off the weekend with a bronze in both the kumite and the shito ryu kata events.
In the afternoon in the senior team rotation events the men’s Ippon team Jason Marquis , Nick Karanicholas and Iain Hedges battled through to win a bronze losing to Poland in the semi final.
The men’s sanbon team ( Leon Martin , John Anderson, Dan Cuthbert and Phil Patrick ) were less fortunate and went out to Brazil in the first round in the sanbon rotation. Still we did have 3 medals from the first day.
On the Saturday we saw Individual kumite on all 8 tatamis and Karate England had 9 people make various quarter final but only two went through to take a medal. John Anderson in the men’s U80k sanbon losing to the Ukrainian World Champion in the semi final and Nick Karanicholas in the men’s U70k sanbon narrowly going down to the Romanian.
The ladies team of Ashley Ogbekene , Kerry McCormack , Laura Wheeler and Lindsay Turnbull having lost in the previous days rotation event did much better in the sanbon narrowly losing to Brazil in their semi final.
The Men’s Ippon team had another good day reaching the final of the men’s Ippon team event. Lee Willis had come into the team with Jason and Nick and the three of them had stormed through all their rounds to face Hungary in the final the next day.
Both the first and second days had finished about 4 pm so this left time to relax on the beach, talk to old friends from other countries or just catch up on sleep. It’s a credit to the organisers that with so many countries and competitors that they were able to use all 8 tatamis almost continuously throughout the day.
There is one thing about WUKF events, and everyone that has come to them has commented on this is its `friendly` atmosphere. From the President Mr Osvaldo Messias, the chief referee Mr Sever Cucu , the organising committee , the other coaches and athletes right down to the table officials. There is an all pervading feeling of family and friendship which I for one never experienced in the WKF or indeed in the EKGB.
Although there were countries from all over the world and all continents, whether it was a coach from Romania, a president from South Africa, a referee from Argentina or a fighter from Russia they were interested in others and always willing to talk or at least try.
On the finals day we had the privilege of the company of probably the most famous ever kumite champion Mr. Victor Charles M.B.E. who enjoyed the day immensely and on being introduced to the WUKF president, commented on the high standard of the finalists. High praise from one of Karate s few real legends.
The one final that Karate England was involved in was the men’s ippon team event. Jason Marquis , Nick Karanicholas and Lee Willis took to the mat to face a much more experienced and Ippon specialists Hungary. Jason went into a 1-0 lead but his opponent pegged it back and the bout ended 1-1. Nick took his fight straight to his much bigger opponent and scored wazari , a flurry of punches led to an equalizing score for the Hungarian but Nick attacked again and took the fight 2-1. This led to Lee looking for a draw or any win to take the match for England . He had scored effortlessly the previous day in the earlier rounds with jodan kicks but the taller Hungarian suddenly attacked over Lee s guard landing a head punch which was awarded Ippon leaving the England team to rue what might have been. Silver !
The total medal haul for the England squad was 1 silver and 6 bronze.
Men’s ippon team Jason Marquis , Nick Karanicholas , Lee Willis and Iain Hedges - silver Ippon Team and bronze team rotation
Ladies sanbon team Ashley Ogbekene , Laura Wheeler , Kerry McCormack and Lindsay Turnbull - bronze sanbon team
Nick Karanicholas - bronze men’s U70k
John Anderson - bronze men’s U80k
Patience Kakitie - bronze ladies veterans kumite and shito ryu veterans kata.
The coaching staff were a little disappointed not to have had at least one gold but as head coach Abdu Shaher said ` the standard was very high and we are still relative newcomers to this level.
Let’s look forward to the European Cup in Cluj , Romania in September and the European Juniors in Hungary in October. Also good to hear that next year’s Senior Europeans will be in Scotland so well done to our Scottish colleagues for getting govt funding for that.
We also have the Shikon International on the 3rd July at Harlow, we have several Irish squads coming and a large Romanian squad, and there will be an international match between those three countries on the day.