In September this year I became British Under 17 (Cadet) Champion and followed it up the following day with silver in the Under 20 (Junior) Championships. At 14 years old it felt like the highlight of what had been a fantastic set of results for me in the previous 6 months.
Although I always review my performance after a competition with my dad and coach, Keith Cook, writing this blog forced me to think perhaps more deeply about why my weekend had been so successful. Normally we look at all the elements that made up my day – what I ate the night before and, on the day, how well I slept, my warm-up and how I was feeling on the piste both physically and mentally. And then we follow that up with a movie night of video analysis of my direct elimination fights.
What struck me most when thinking about this weekend was that I felt fresh and I was keen to test the work my dad and I had been putting in over the summer. The season had just started but my preparation for this event had begun in July with two training camps – one at the Leon Paul Centre immediately followed by a week of intensive sparring with the GB Senior Men’s Foil Team and some of the top Under 20 fencers in the country at the Salle Holyrood Summer Camp. This was such a special week for me which really motivated me to work even harder.
Part of the preparation for the British Cadet and Junior Championships was ensuring I was competition ready. We scheduled in three competitions before this to challenge me – the Leon Paul Summer Open, the Junior British Ranking Competition in London and the Fencers Club London Open. I’m starting to feel like London is my second home!
I felt good on the morning of the competition (I’d had my coca pops!) but also nervous. I knew how important a good result at this event would be to seal my selection for the GB squad to the first international in Budapest. Talking of nerves though, I think the most nerve-racking thing of the weekend was my winners’ interview with Georgina Usher after the event. That’s no reflection on Georgina.
Despite knowing the importance of the competitions ahead, one of the things I always try to work on is not to think about the bigger picture – “how will I do, I need to get such and such a result” etc – but rather maintain my focus on each hit. My poule in the Cadets went great and I felt I was fencing well. I dropped only 4 hits putting me at the top of the rankings going into the Direct Eliminations. Despite my hard work, I had a pretty tough run to the final and only won this by a single hit. The only point at which I was up in the fight. I was pleased with my performance for lots of reasons – I kept the head, stayed in control, stayed focused and really believed I could win, despite being down for the whole of the final match in the Cadets. One of the things my dad and I had been working on was active defence, making it difficult for my opponent to get into a rhythm and find the right distance and timing to attack. This was something I felt really pleased with over the weekend. Sadly, by the time I came to the final of the Juniors the next day, my legs finally ran out of steam and my active defence was a little less active!
What made my Cadet Championship win so special was that I shared the podium with two of my clubmates, Callum and Rhys. These two results at the start of the Cadet season, together with a last 16 at the British Under 23 Championships put me in Number 1 spot in the British Cadet Rankings. A great feeling and I’m so looking forward to the journey this season.