Monday, 31 March 2014

47. Wrestling - Women's Freestyle

Event: Wrestling - Women's Freestyle
Date: 28th March 2014
Location: London Hunters Gym
Cost: Free (thank you Eric!)  
Rules: Wrestling was one of the original sports to feature in the ancient Olympics in Greece in 779BC. Despite it's history, the women's event wasn't introduced until 2004. Greco Roman Wrestling was the original style (holds allowed from the waist up), but Freestyle quickly grew in popularity due to it's greater freedoms within the rules to tackle and subdue the opponent (holds allowed on the whole body). There are four women's weight categories in Olympic competitions and matches consist of 2x three minute halves, with a 30 second interval. The matches are judged on points or a fall. A fall is when a wrestler holds their opponent down with their back pinned to the mat for at least two seconds. If there are no falls during the match, then it is judged by points; which are awarded according to the difficulty of the hold. If at any time there is more than a 10 point difference, the match is stopped and the higher scoring wrestler wins. If during the normal duration, neither wrestler scores a minimum of three points, the match goes to extra time and ends when one wrestler gets to three points. 

The Event:

Ellie 8 v 2 Sarah
Sarah: We were both a bit nervous approaching wrestling; it's a sport that we knew little about other than the theatre of WWF, and it was a tough one to track down. It's the first sport that we were unable to complete in Essex; there are no wrestling clubs in the county, and the Hunters are one of the few clubs in the South-East. Luckily when we found the Hunters, Eric was up for helping us and we spent three weeks getting a whistle-stop introduction to the holds, attacks and rules of the sport. Match night arrived, and the contest passed in a flash; it felt like we were sussing each other out in the first half, both attempting to catch the other off-guard, and I was pleased to go into half-time even on 2-2. However, it all went wrong in the second half, and as Ellie kept tripping me, I repeatedly had to return to my trusted star position so she couldn't flip me for a 'fall'! As the seconds ticked down, all I could hear was my coach shouting "We need points! We need points!" and I did everything I could to get them, but I just couldn't topple Farrow! She trounced me!  Despite my huge defeat, I had a great time with the Hunters, and enjoyed Wrestling much more than I expected. It was really interesting learning the basics of a completely new sport and chatting to the club members to get an insight to wrestling- especially with Chloe about the women's competitions.

Ellie: Wrestling; our penultimate combat sport. Violence-wise this has felt on a par with Boxing - but you get more protective gear in boxing. To pin your opponent down you need have a great deal of balance and try to use their strength and weight against them. The holds and moves could be likened to Judo but again, once in a match scenario, these moves become difficult to pull off and you just go for what you can grab hold of! My coach, Bart, suggested I attack as defending wouldn't win me any points so that's what I did. I tried to pull Sarah's legs out from under her and keep myself out of her range. After the first round I was feeling a bit more comfortable (and pleased I'd only squealed once) and the last round flew by (sort of)! This is a sport not for the faint-hearted - you have to be willing to put your body through some hefty training and have quite a laissez-faire attitude to pain ... the speed these athletes can achieve is remarkable too. 
Thanks so much to Eric Ciake, our formidable coach, and to all at Hunters for such great support! We wish you all huge success in your future events!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

46. Cycling - Mountain Bike - Cross Country

Event: Cycling - Mountain Bike - Cross Country
Date: 19th March 2014
Location: Rendlesham Forest Mountain Bike Trail
Cost: £3.30 for the car park 
Rules: Mountain biking was introduced to the Olympics in 1996 as the cross-country event. All riders start together and race over a course with each lap between 3-6km; the first over the finish line is the winner. The riders compete over a specified number of laps, determined at the latest two hours before the race starts to determine the optimum finishing time. The decision depends on the track and weather conditions. The course is marked and covers a variety of terrain with constant changes in elevation and difficulty. The course should include forest roads, tracks, earth and grave paths. Paved or asphalt roads should not exceed 15% of the total course.

The Event:


Olympic Gold, London 2012: 1.30.52, 17.9 mile course, Julie Bresset, France.
Ellie and Sarah: 1.29.00, 10 mile course.  

Sarah: We didn't need too much preparation for this one, other than dusting off our bikes and borrowing a bike rack. As the Olympic distance is decided on the morning of the race (surely one of the only events to operate like this?!), we had a bit of flexibility with our distance, and decided to ride the 10 mile route around the forest. Our trail was much easier in terrain than the Olympic course, with an absence of steep inclines or teeth-rattling downhill slopes, but we had really varied terrain and a few uphill sections. Many of my childhood holidays were spent caravanning around UK forests and parks, and I had forgotten the feeling of freedom when speeding through the trees on your bike, bumping over mud tracks and roots. I'll definitely be investing in my own bike rack and checking out the other mountain bike trails around East Anglia. 

Ellie: The way in which we completed this event was beautiful. A lovely forest in fine weather. Trees, pigs and a military base... what could be better? We even had M&S Percy Pigs for a burst of energy (Other pig shaped sweets are available).

What I should have anticipated was that, as I'm totally unused to cycling, parts of body would suffer. I've never had pins and needles downstairs and I don't recommend it... and the last two miles were an absolute nightmare but the fresh air and camaraderie made it all worthwhile. I doubt Olympic competitors stop to look at piglets though and the balance needed and the trust placed in your machinery makes this another complex and interesting event especially as your not 100% certain of your race length before the day. 
Mountain biking also must be one of the most age accessible sports - a great number of children have bikes and do this sort of thing every weekend! Rendlesham Forest has bicycles for hire for those who don't. I would put this firmly on a list of events to do again... perhaps remembering to wear padded trousers next time.

We took the green 'FIDO Trail' route

Monday, 10 March 2014

45. Individual Foil Fencing

Event: Individual Foil
Date: 28th February 2014
Location: Colchester and District Fencing Club, Gilberd School, Colchester
Cost: £25 for one month membership
Rules: Individual fencing bouts last for three periods of three minutes each, or until one fencer has scored 15 hits against their opponent. In the event of a tie, athletes fence for one more minute with one randomly assigned 'priority'. The first to score a hit is the winner, but if no hits are scored the 'priority' athlete wins the bout. Hits are recorded electronically, and are scored by hitting the opponent with the tip of the weapon. Foil is a light weapon derived from the court sword, and foil fencing has strict right-of-way and timing rules. The torso is the target area. 

The Event:


Ellie: 15
Sarah: 12
London 2012 Winner: Elisa Di Francisca, Italy.   
Sarah: It was time for our last fencing bout. I was determined to make my short arms and legs land some hits, and was definitely thinking more about my lunges and posture. I still felt a bit confused about the right-of-way scoring in Foil, and once again decided to just go for it and see what happened! We've only been fencing for a month, and I think we've both really advanced in that time. Today's match was closer than the others, and we were both thinking much more about our tactics and form, and the footwork seemed to come a bit more naturally. We're going to miss the CADs, and have had such a fun time learning the techniques and differences between the three different swords.

Ellie: It was during this last fencing bout that I realised that I was trying to force Sarah into doing things. I was looking to encourage a shot, to parry this and then get a clear shot at her chest - which seems to be a theme running through our recent events (sorry Sarah). I also tried to be a lot be more lunge-y and take advantage of the length of my body rather than rely on the speed of my (slow) feet.
It's both encouraging and a pity that this awareness of tactics has come now. I'm happy that I'm not concentrating on my footwork or body positions as much anymore but it's a shame that we now have to leave fencing! 
We have had a great experience and this is completely down to the people at our chosen club. The coaches have been spirited, the fencers have been accommodating, the parents have been encouraging and we've had some great newcomers to work alongside too. I'd urge anyone that is looking for a physical and mental challenge that is out of the ordinary to look no further than fencing.

We couldn't have been made to feel more welcome by the CADS; the coaches, the fencers and the parents were all amazing and so encouraging, they really got involved with our Challenge, and we can't thank them all enough!

We're obviously biased, but we can't think of a better club to contact if you'd like to take up fencing. Plus they have cake sales on the last Friday of the month! Their website has more info: 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

44. Team Foil Fencing

Event: Women's Team Foil
Date: 28th February 2014
Location: Colchester and District Fencing Club, Gilberd School, Colchester
Cost: £25 for one month membership
Rules: Teams of three fencers compete against opponents over a series of nine three-minute bouts, with the aim of accumulating a maximum of 45 hits to win the match. Hits are recorded electronically, and are scored by hitting the opponent with the tip of the weapon. Foil is a light weapon derived from the court sword, and foil fencing has strict right-of-way and timing rules. The torso is the target area.  

The Event: 
Ellie vs Alex
Noah vs Sarah
Aaron vs Neil
Team Sarah: Sarah, Aaron, Alex.
Team Ellie: Ellie, Neil, Noah.

Team Sarah: 35 v 45 Team Ellie
London 2012 Winner: Italy.  
Sarah: This was our first time actually wearing the foil jackets and introduction to the right-of-way scoring system, which I just couldn't understand! I'm sure you're meant to play far more tactically that I did, but I resorted to just going for the hit regardless of if it was my right of way or not!  Once again, we had to be flexible with the rules in the team event and had mixed teams, and we're super thankful to the gents for helping us out! We were relieved to have the others there to referee the matches, as it would have been chaos if we'd blindly tried to award points to the fencer with the correct riposte or right of way!  

Ellie: Word of our challenge has spread through our fencing group and people were very keen to take part in this, our last team event. Noah and Alex, both being infinitely more experienced than us, took complete charge with scoring, judging and competing coming effortlessly to them both. It was incredible to watch these matches alongside them (and Alan) and to see how much more they are able to see compared to me. They could easily tell who had right of way and what each fencer was trying to do - it was remarkable as it all happens so fast!
We spread this team event over two weeks after some technical issues slowed us down; this gave us a great cliffhanger effect! 
Once again, it was a real learning opportunity to fight against people with such skill and to see how quickly they can get the measure of their opponent. My strategy was to get the tougher matches over as quickly as possible and to get at least a couple of points from them if I could - easier strategised (is that a word?), than done!

Big thanks to everyone who helped us with this one, especially Aaron, Alex, Neil and Noah for fighting and Alan helping to ref!

Monday, 3 March 2014

43. Boxing

Event: Women's Boxing
Date: 23rd February 2014
Location: Hercules Gym, Colchester
Cost: £4 each for gym session
Rules: 2012 was the first year women's boxing featured as a full Olympic medal event. There are three different weight categories for the boxers, and fights last for four rounds of two minutes each. Points are scored for every punch that successfully lands on the opponents head or body. If a boxer is knocked to the ground and fails to get up within a count of ten seconds, the bout is over.  

The Event:



Ellie: 21
Sarah: 14  

Sarah: We started our boxing lessons last summer and have been steadily building up our skills and moves. We've both absolutely loved learning this sport, and the lessons have been a real mix of strength, speed and stamina. For an all-round work out you can't really go wrong with boxing. Saying all that, everything we learnt completely went out of my head as soon as I stepped into the ring; everything except keeping my guard up! It was really, really, really strange being allowed to having to punch Ellie, and it definitely took me a couple of rounds to get into the swing of it. The adrenaline/fear rush was crazy. Ellie is much stronger than me, so I was trying to keep tire her out by moving around as much as possible, but she cottoned on and stayed stationary in the middle! By the end of the fourth round my legs had turned to jelly and I was willing the final bell to ring. I'd definitely like to return to this one, but next time would much prefer to punch someone I don't like!

Ellie: As Sarah says, we've been training for this event for a long while; it's been a great experience and one I'd like to pick up again once 2016 rolls around. I was very nervous about trying to batter one of my closest friends from the start; I was and still am deeply uncomfortable about it. What if I break her nose? What if she really hurts me? What if either one of us loses the plot and properly pummels the other? What if, when I'm in the ring, I just really, really want to hit her? Well, thankfully that didn't happen and looking back, there really was no other way to complete the event. It's been a great lesson though as I can see what type of adrenalin and anger-rush you must get when fighting someone you don't care about.

The two things I was conscious of during the fight were that Sarah had a lot more speed than me and that she was trying to tire me out. My plan quickly became to stand still and let her do all the work - this resulted in me getting very dizzy in the first round! The other thing I did on purpose was to switch my feet around - I went from a left-foot stance, which is natural to me, to a right-foot stance. I think I was trying to get into better positions or to put Sarah off. I'm not sure it worked but it made me feel that I was doing something... along side this, I just tried to land blows when Sarah gave me the chance and to make them quite hard in an attempt to push her back. It's certainly a sport that makes you think several steps ahead.
There was certainly controversy - a mix up over punching in the head which resulted in us both getting our ears boxed before we outlawed it but unfortunately, when aiming for Sarah's boobs I caught her on the chin - I doubt many Olympic boxers shout 'Sorry' after landing a shot!
I was immensely pleased when the last round was over and I know that if I'd had to go another round the score would have been a lot different. I'm very proud of how I've performed in this event; I've reveled in my powerful punches and I'm also proud of what we have achieved together; arranging the use of a boxing ring was exceedingly difficult not to mention the hours of training. I feel quite sorry that if we were good enough (!), we'd be too old to fight in Rio - the age limit being 34... Boooo!

Our coaches Sarah and Claire have been brilliantly supportive, and we'd like to say a huge THANK YOU for all their time and patience! Big thanks also to Karl at Hercules Gym for letting us use the boxing ring in their amazing gym.