We left Oxford at an ungodly hour, to get over to the far side of London. But it was worth it – we had a large team, the largest we’ve had in a fair few years. There were eight Oxford Uni students and three Oxford Brookes students, plus three coaches, so we were full steam ahead!
It’s always nice to travel with a group. You bond over wins and losses (always because of bad refereeing, of course), weigh ins and how tough it is to juggle work/uni/training, and often over an abundance of food. You have a joint experience which the group shares. And the bigger the group, the more bonding.
We had a lot of beginners in the group. Three of the boys were on their first or second competitions ever, so the London Unis was a brave decision. Aaron Edwards (U66 kyu), Jamal Antonio (U73 kyu) and Hamed Ahmadi (U66 kyu) all put up good fights in a sport they’re very new at.
Khalid Mohsen was our first medal of the day, and our only U20s competitor (U81). We got there good and early, and he kicked it off with a lovely couple of ippons, securing a bronze by lunchtime.
Mehdi Imani followed this up with our second medal in the kyu U66s, clearing through his bracket with three ippons. A gold medal well earned.
Tom Roach and Ralph Houet has a massive group of 17 (U73 kyu). They always end up in the same brackets, as they weigh and rank the same. But this time they didn’t have to fight each other – the competition organisers were incredibly good about that. They were put in different pools, and after a few tough fights both of them made it out of their respective pools. Both fought for bronze, but the competition was tough, and they didn’t quite get there. It was a really good day for them, though. They really got a chance to see what to work on.
Daniel Trawny, Gregor Cremosnik and Vidar Benjamin Skretting were all in the same bracket as well (U81), but again didn’t have to fight each other in the early rounds. It was another big bracket, with 15 competitors, and all of them had some lovely matches. Daniel won one with a perfectly timed drop seoinage, but lost two because of bridging (so let that be a lesson, don’t do it!). Gregor had a few tough fights, and won three matches by ippon, and secured a bronze. Benjamin worked like a… something that works hard. A horse? Anyway, he obviously intended to win, which he did, and took home the gold.
Finally, Sam Ritchardson fought in the U100s, and had a some good fights with some national and international level players. He won one by ippon, and secured a bronze.
We ate a pub out of all food on the way home. I’d like to say it was the competitors who did most of the eating, but the honest truth is that it was the coaches. A long, busy, stressful day meant we hadn’t eaten much. And between Will Tew, Jordan Doherty and Emma Burnett we might have driven the place to impoverishment.