It was a familiar date in the tournament calendar for 4th degree Instructor Danny Welland and a new one for 1st degree Umbreen Khan of Brentford TKD. The long-awaited European Championships had arrived and for the 2 travelling from Brentford TKD, it had been the focus of a gruelling few months of fitness and training. The morning of Wednesday 10th July was the departure time from Heathrow Terminal 5 for Team UK and Barcelona, Spain was the destination. After Miss Ashley Nicholls had handed out tickets for the flight, it was a quick transfer through check-in and security. Members from other clubs met long time tournament friends and after a quick airport breakfast everyone was well fed and ready to board the plane to sunny Spain. There was a good team atmosphere and it was clear all competitors had been preparing long and hard for the next few days of competition. With few bumps on landing and the sun blaring through the windows, Team UK had arrived. The competitors collected baggage and boarded the coach to take them to the Novotel Cornella – home and training venue for the next 5 days. Whilst Miss Ashley Nicholls organised everyones room cards, members of Team UK took advantage of the waiting time and wasted no time in familiarising themselves with the hotel pool and setting up the wifi. After checking out the rooms and dumping the bags, it was time for a trip to the local shopping centre ‘Splau’ to meet fellow members of Team UK Hayley Smith and Andrew Lawrence and to stock up on water and food. It was also announced that training would take place later that evening in the hotel. The walk to Splau was a short 15min walk in the sun in Barcelona terms and a short 15 walk in a sauna for those used to British weather. The heat however, was welcomed as it generally meant less injuries and an opportunity for those who needed to, to lose the extra weight before the weigh-in the following morning. The tournament venue was also conveniently located just behind Splau. The training time that evening was moved forward from 4pm to 6pm so on return from Splau, it was time for an extra hour or so of practising patterns on the grass next to the pool before squad training. At 6pm, the competitors gathered on the hotel grounds and were split into adult male, adult female, junior male and junior female groups. Each of the Team UK coaches (Ms Kerry Burridge, Ms Hayley Parker, Mr Reece Nicholls and Mr Grant Churchwood) took one group each and training went on for an hour. Team patterns and sparring drills were practised between all of the groups and it was enjoyable for all as training outside, barefoot brought a new experience for all. Dinner time couldn’t come soon enough and the weigh-in the following morning was on everyones minds as the coaches announced a 9am weigh-in time and an 8am training time for those close to their weight who wanted to lose a few extra pounds before stepping onto the scales. Splau was the daily night time destination as it had a huge variety of shops and en-route to Splau Wednesday evening, other teams were spotted milling around their hotels, namely Christian Oriolani of Spain which reminded us not only of the competition at hand but also of the friendships that develop during these tournaments. A buffet restaurant called Muerde La Pasta next to a 25 screen(?) cinema was the chosen location for dinner that night. There was a huge number of people eating in the restaurant which was surprising as it was Thursday, mid-week. Whilst Andrew and Umbreen were careful about portion sizes, it was clear Danny had no concern in needing to make weight as his portions could have fed a small country for the night(!). The stroll back to the hotel was a good end to the day and a good opportunity to find out that crossing roads is easier in Barcelona than in England as looking before crossing at a zebra is not actually necessary. The officials meeting also took place that night and the news that shin pads were not compulsory was spread. Much of Team UK decided to stay with the use of shin pads as it meant less injuries and everyone was already used to wearing them.
The following morning, the tournament passes were handed out and nerves were beginning to show as it brought home the reason why everyone was there. The official scales were set up in a room in the front of the hotel and each person was weighed in front of an official who read out the readings whilst official Ms Roberts stamped the passes to confirm weight had been made. Everyone made the weight with no issues and the coaches announced that training would take place again that evening. Much of Thursday was spent poolside, playing football (until it got confiscated) and wandering around at Splau with lunch at Italian restaurant, Gino’s Pasta and Pizza followed by a compulsory stop at Haagen Dazs. As it happened, come training time, it started raining. This did not deter the competitors as they took shelter where they could and practised patterns with the Spanish coach looking on as the Spanish team had just arrived. During the training session, the draw was made for who would carry the England flag during the opening ceremony and at her first international tournament, Umbreen’s name was picked for the female representative with Adam Gibbs also chosen to hold the England flag alongside her. After this final training session, the competitors broke off and went to dinner in their smaller groups. By now, more of Team UK had found out about Muerde La Pasta and it soon became a favourite amongst all the competitors. After the regular stroll back to the hotel, it was time for an early night to accommodate for an early buffet breakfast in the hotel before being taken to the tournament venue by coach at half 8 in the morning. Just as planned, the coach left at 8.30am sharp and after a short 5 minute coach journey, there was time to spare for team photos outside the competition venue whilst teams from other countries arrived. As all the teams filed in, Team UK chose their seating area which would remain for the duration of the tournament. The 5 rings had been set up including the raised centre ring and flags of all competing countries were hung along one wall. There was a small stand on the entrance to buy doughnuts and other athlete unfriendly snacks. They also sold water!
The opening ceremony soon got underway and consisted of the two representatives from each country holding flags and going to stand on the centre ring whilst a singer performed and the officials declared the competition open. With all formalities over, the junior patterns began and all of the competitors started warming up to give a good performance. With the competition moving swiftly, it was soon time for Umbreen’s turn in adult female 1st degree patterns. The first round was against Sweden with the designated pattern being Kwang-Gae and choice pattern Gae-Baek. Umbreen won after a good performance of Gae-Baek and was through to the next round and secured a guaranteed medal position. The next round was against Spain with a designated pattern of Choong-Moo and choice pattern Gae-Baek. A short loss of concentration in Gae-Baek led to Umbreen missing a move, she finished the pattern but lost the round and won a bronze medal. An announcement was made stating that sparring will soon start as events were running to schedule. As it was unclear of which categories would take place on which day, all competitors were constantly keeping warm and busy. During the day, there was a half hour break in which to nip down to the Subway in Splau to grab a quick lunch to eat on the way back to the arena. The sparring commenced soon after and Umbreen’s category adult female microweight sparring was called up. After warming up and getting sparring gear on, the first bout saw Umbreen through with a bye. She watched the next fight in her category and prepared for the next round. The opponent was 3rd degree Italian Camilla Zangaris. After being caught early with a reverse turning kick, Umbreen quickly recovered and landed some heavy side kicks. After the first round, the Italian was up on points and Umbreen had to push harder in the second round with the Italian progressively tiring. A last side kick from Umbreen sent the opponent to the ground but it was not enough to regain the points and Umbreen had to settle for a bronze medal. The medals were presented at the end of the day on the podium in the centre ring and the announcement came that adult male sparring would take place the following day. This gave Danny reason to fill up again on much needed carbs at Muerde La Pasta for the following day. Day 2 of the competition saw the eagerly anticipated male sparring category take place and for Danny, the last chance to compete at the Euros as an adult competitor. Danny drew a Greek competitor in the first round. He kept the opponent away with his side and turning kicks making the opponent back step around the ring. With the combination of jump punches later in the round, Danny had the first round in his favour. The points stacked up as Danny led with his side kick in the second round and the opponent called a time out to have treatment on his knee. The end of the second round came with a flurry of punches from Danny securing his win and place in the next round which he unfortunately did not win. Taking place simultaneously to the sparring was the team patterns on centre ring. As one member of the adult female was injured, Umbreen, as a reserve, got the chance to be a member of the team. After designated pattern Won-Hyo and choice pattern Hwa-Rang the adult female team took silver to a well-rehearsed and impressive Italian team. Next up was team sparring and after the first team fight against the Netherlands, Umbreen was up against a hyperweight opponent in the second out of 5 fights. Umbreen put up a good fight but the height and weight difference proved too much of an advantage for the Dutch opponent. Following this fight, the Netherlands team forfeited meaning England fought against Italy in the final. The Italians won and again, England got silver to them. The Italian team were one member short as Silvia Farigu of Italy broke her arm in an unfortunate accident whilst sparring a member of Slovakia in team sparring and was taken to hospital.
Also on day 2 was individual power and special technique. Umbreen attempted the qualifying side kick, turning kick and knife hand strike but did not manage to break the wood boards. Danny’s attempt at the punch break was impressive as he broke all 5 wood boards which not many of the other competitors managed. Unfortunately he also broke a bone in his right hand leaving him to attempt the rest of the hand strikes with his left. The other breaks Danny attempted were a side kick, turning kick and reverse turning kick. The day’s competition finished early so Danny, Andrew, Hayley, Adam and Umbreen decided to try a new dinner location – Ribs, which was also in Splau. After a good meal, keeping the waitress on her toes (metaphorically), lots of stories, “sorry Umbreens'” and a well-deserved dessert, it was time for another early night. The last day of the competition which was noticeably emptier due to teams having to fly back, saw the team power and special technique categories in which the England adult female team took bronze and silver, it was also time for the medal ceremony to take place. As the last of the national anthems took place, the mats were starting to be cleared away and Team UK made their way back to the hotel after a very successful Championships for England in individual, team and overall results. The last Monday saw the competitors relaxing by the pool and packing their medals away for the flight home. As the flight landed on Monday evening at Heathrow, the captain made an announcement congratulating Team UK for their success in Barcelona to which everyone cheered and applauded.