Monday, 28 December 2015

86. Taekwondo

Event: Taekwondo
Date: 9th December 2015
Location: Essex Taekwondo, Chelmsford
Cost: No charge.
Rules: Taekwondo is a traditional Korean martial art that combines combat and self defence techniques with sport and agility. The name means 'the way of kicking and punching'. The Olympic competition is held in four weight categories, each taking part within a ten metre square contest area. If an opponent strays outside the boundary line, the other gets a point. The aim is to land as many kicks and blows on your opponent within the allowed target areas. A contest last three rounds of two minutes each; separated by a one minute break. Victory is achieved through a knockout, gaining more points than your contestant or by default if the other player is disqualified. The Olympic competition takes the form of an elimination tournament.

The Event:

London 2012 Olympic Gold Medal:
Flyweight- Wu Jingyu, China
Lightweight- Jade Jones, UK
Middleweight- Hwang Kyung-Seon, South Korea
Heavyweight- Milica Mandic, Serbia 

Sarah: I'd been looking forward to this event since we started the Challenge. It's such an impressive sport to watch, with those amazing spins and kicks, but predictably my performance was far less gracious and agile than the pros. The club we joined had a really diverse range of ages and abilities, and during the class people rotated for exercises meaning everyone got a chance to spar with each other; something I'm sure helps to encourage and improve the younger or less experienced members. It was great to use some of our boxing knowledge, and learn the basic leg kicks and a couple of simple set pieces. I can definitely see the appeal of Taekwondo, and it's easily my favourite martial art of the Challenge.

Ellie: Our last Martial Art of the challenge certainly didn't disappoint. Tucked away in a little sports centre out of Chelmsford city centre; this is a really friendly and welcoming club. As Sarah says, all of the members get the opportunity to spar with other members of different abilities meaning the there is a really open learning environment and little segregation between ages and/or belts. I really noticed the balance between fun and discipline. It's an obviously technical sport with moves and routines to be mastered but this club has a pressure free atmosphere and it was really enjoyable. It's definitely a shame that we spent only one session with Essex Taekwondo and it would definitely be a sport to consider after our project concludes.  

Big thanks to Master Slater and all at Essex Taekwondo for being so welcoming!

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Bonus Event #4 - Squash

Event: Squash
Date: 13th November 2015
Location: Colchester Leisureworld
Cost: £6.20 per 45 minutes (Off-Peak)
Rules: Squash matches are held between two players and are the best of three games. Each game is a point scoring rally to 11. If the score is even at 10-10, a player must proceed to win by two clear points. Points can be scored by either player; when an opponent fails to serve or return the ball, the other player wins the point. The player that wins the point becomes (or remains) the server. The ball can only bounce a maximum of one time, and must be played within the lines. 


Game One:   E 11 v 7 S
Game Two:   E 7 v 11 S
Game Three: E 11 v 6 S
Winner: Ellie

Sarah: Squash has repeatedly just missed out on being voted in as an Olympic sport, which seems a little unfair on this fast-paced, exciting game. I've only played a handful of times but the rules are so simple, it's really quick to pick up and play a proper match. I was mainly focused on trying to keep track and return the ball, but tried to start playing tactically when I could. I can see how this fast becomes an addictive game. There's currently a campaign to get Squash on the 2020 list of sports; here's hoping it's successful.   

Ellie:  I love Squash; I should definitely play it more often. It's really satisfying to whack the ball off the back wall and rallies can be really exciting. Once we'd warmed up we really got some good games going and it really was a close fought match. I'm definitely hoping Squash makes it into the 2020 Olympics as it is a really good spectator sport too. Its quick pace and tendency to get super competitive/violent makes for excellent entertainment!

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Bonus Event #3 - Golf

Event: Golf
Date: 13th November 2015
Location: Playgolf, Colchester
Cost: £6 per 100 balls
Rules: When using the driving range you should hit the balls as far as you can. Hit the targets, flags and trampolines for extra kudos. In Rio 2016, the Golfing tournament will see 60 players competing in a 72-hole stroke play format competition (whatever that means!).


Results: Golf will return to the Olympics in 2016; the first time since 1904. Watch this space!

Sarah: Well, if I discovered one thing this weekend, it's that I'm not a natural golfer. There's always the possibility with a new sport that you will discover your hidden talent and natural gift, but that definitely didn't happen on this occasion. We were meant to be in Jersey this weekend ticking one of our more tricky Olympic events off the list, but disappointingly the trip had to be postponed due to ferry cancellations. We took the opportunity to complete a couple of bonus events; because why stop at 114?! Ok, this wasn't a proper game of golf, but I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have let me on the green anyway. Out of 50 balls I probably had 10 satisfying hits, and many many mis-hits. 

Ellie: The whole golfing experience was pretty cool; the Playgolf centre is really tucked away and it's lavish! A lovely restaurant, spas, 18 hole course and the bank of driving range bays which have mechanical tees and heat lamps. We were really upset not to be able to go to Jersey but this was an experience we probably wouldn't have had otherwise and I really enjoyed it. I was able to hit some of the balls pretty high in the air which was very satisfying but I'm feeling the pain today... I have been inflicted with golfers side strain... ouch! 

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

85. Rowing - Double Skulls

Event: Rowing - Double Skulls
Date: 24th October 2015
Location: Sudbury Rowing Club
Cost: No charge.
Rules: Women's rowing events were first included in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Races are held on rivers, canals or lakes over a distance on 2,000 metres. Races start under the supervision of an aligner and a starter, with umpires positioned along the course and at the finish line. The Double Skulls sees two rowers in the boat with two oars each.

The Event:

London 2012 Olympic Gold Medal: Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins, Great Britain.

Sarah: After our dunking in the River Chelmer last year during a canoe lesson, I've been pretty keen not to go for any more river swims. We had just one more rowing event to get through without falling in the River Stour. I was feeling fairly confident about it, until it was revealed we'd be going out in the boat together. No! We were sure to fall in! We gingerly made our way out on to the water and slowly found our river-legs. We took it in turns rowing whilst the other sat the boat to keep it steady, and eventually plucked up the courage to take some strokes together. One thing I've learnt about rowing is that you have to power through the wobbles; keep on taking strokes and finding the rhythm, ignoring the fear of falling in. We didn't quite manage that; for every wobble we screamed, laughed and sat the boat as quickly as possible. There's no way we'd have been able to even attempt it in our first lesson though, so it was great seeing how far we'd come. Towards the end of the session, the rain started pouring down, giving us a strangely peaceful farewell on the completely still water.

Ellie: This was the ultimate test, the final rowing session and we were going out ON OUR OWN! Sarah did an incredible job of steering us out into the open water and keeping us level and it was a really relaxing row once we'd settled in. The weather did get a little wet but it was strangely pleasant. Massive thanks to everyone at the Sudbury Rowing Club who have allowed us to be part of their summer and made sure we didn't fall in the water more than was necessary!

Saturday, 10 October 2015

84. Football

Event: Football
Date: 3rd October 2015
Location: Strangers Corner, Brightlingsea Sports Centre
Cost: £40 pitch hire
Rules: Football is the most widely played game in the world, but the women's event wasn't included in the Olympics until 1996. Teams of 11 try to score as many goals as possible in two 45 minute halves. All players must be in their own half at kick-off and the first kick of the ball must go forward. No more than 15 minutes extra time can be added by the referee at the end of each half to make up for penalties and substitutions. If necessary, the game can go to a penalty shoot-out after extra time.

The Event:

London 2012 Olympic Gold Medal: USA

Sarah, Greg, Claire - 13 v 6 - Ellie, Kim, Anna, Laura

Sarah: It was a tough mission to gather twenty two willing women to take part in our football match. As you can see from the pictures, we fell short of a few players, so adapted the pitch and played the lesser-known three-a-side rules. We tried to stick to proper match rules as much as possible, but there was certainly some loose interpretation going on. I found myself really enjoying the match, and would definitely like to play again but with bigger teams so we can focus more on set-plays and properly feel the flow of the game.

Ellie: I believe this is what is known in the trade as a pasting, a rout, a thrashing if you will. However, I like to think that it is a score line that shows how good Sarah's team was rather than how badly my team played. With the exception of the captain, me, my team played like bloody superstars! There were headers, excellent reactions to frankly shocking sliding tackles and some lovely goal celebrations. We were tactical, canny and and at one point did this amazing crab-like rugby scrum move which was pure genius. I definitely let the side down; I missed open goals and let opposition goals in through my legs. I took myself off during both halves to give myself a talking to and to give Laura a chance to shine. Although Football is clearly not my game, it was such a lovely thing to do on a Saturday morning and I'd be up for doing it again!

Huge thanks to our wonderful teammates; Laura, Greg, Claire, Kim and Anna

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

83. Rowing - Women's Coxless Pair

Event: Rowing - Women's Coxless Pair 
Date: 9th September 2015
Location: Sudbury Rowing Club
Cost: No charge.
Rules: Women's rowing events were first included in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Races are held on rivers, canals or lakes over a distance on 2,000 metres. Races start under the supervision of an aligner and a starter, with umpires positioned along the course and at the finish line. The Coxless Pair category sees two rowers in the boat with one oar each.

The Event:

London 2012 Olympic Gold Medal: Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, Great Britain.

Sarah: Our coach Tricia seemed quite nervous about this one; I think she was fairly sure she was going to go for a swim before the session was over. The boat definitely felt more flighty, but I much preferred just having one oar to focus on and can definitely see the attraction of this event. After some impressive manoeuvring by Tricia, I was relieved when we got back to the launch nice and dry. Huge thanks to Tricia for having the confidence in us to risk a river swim!

Ellie: This boat is far too unstable - there is no way that rowers are able to keep this upright and go at any speed... but of course, they do because they are much more able and skilled than I am! It felt a little bit like the Bumblebee paradox - technically and obeying the laws of physics they shouldn't be able to fly but they do. This boat didn't feel like it should stay upright but it did, thankfully.
I much prefer having 2 oars to keep me balanced though so I was pleased when we'd finished this trip and were back on dry land but look how fast our photographs make us look like we're traveling! 


82. Rowing - Women's Quadruple Sculls

Event: Rowing - Women's Quadruple Sculls
Date: 8th September 2015
Location: Sudbury Rowing Club
Cost: No charge
Rules: Women's rowing events were first included in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Races are held on rivers, canals or lakes over a distance of 2,000 metres. Races start under the supervision of an aligner and a starter, with umpires positioned along the course and at the finish line. The Quadruple Sculls category sees four rowers in each boat, rowing as fast as possible over the course. 

The Event:

London 2012 Winners: 6:35.93 Nataliya Dovgodko, Kateryna Tara Senko, Yana Dementyava, Anastasiia Kozhenkova; Ukraine

Sarah: This was our first event after a busy summer and it was great to get back to the Challenge! We were a little ropey to begin with as it had been a few months since we'd last been on the river. I frantically tried to remember my Bow from my Stroke and which direction to hold the oars, but after a few practice lengths most things came flooding back (or I just copied those in front of me). Although we were wobbly, for a few glorious strokes the four of us were vaguely in time and we were gliding through the water. Then I got my oar caught and nearly tipped everyone in.
Ellie: Being quite naive, I thought I'd remember to row a lot easier than I did. It took some proper concentration and copying those in front, as Sarah says, to get back into the rhythm. I definitely hadn't forgotten how inelegant I am when getting in/out of the boat!
We were in a beautiful wooden boat for the Quadruple sculls and when Sarah was part of the two rowers getting into their stride I had time to dip my fingers into the water and relax in my beautiful surroundings. It was very pleasant!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

81. Women's Doubles Tennis

Event: Women's Doubles Tennis
Date: 17th July 2015
Location: Leisureworld Tennis Centre, Eudo Road, Colchester
Cost: £17.00 for two hours
Rules: The winners are the team who win the best of three sets. The first team to win six games wins a set, but they must lead the other team by two clear games. The final set is played to advantage and a wide court is played.
The Game:

London 2012 Winners: Serena and Venus Williams, USA.


Laura & Claire
Sarah & Ellie

Set One:   L&C 3 v 6 E&S. Winner E&S
Set Two:   L&C 6 v 2 E&S. Winner L&C
Set Three: L&C 0 v 6 E&S. Winner E&S
Winners: Ellie and Sarah 
Sarah: We had a lovely sunny evening for our last tennis match of the Challenge, and it was a pretty fine way to spend a Friday night. I'm not a huge tennis fan, but was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it tonight. It was my first time playing on a grass court and it took us all a while to get in the swing of things, but we definitely improved as the games passed. Most of the points were won and lost on the serves, but we did manage to get a handful of rallies going throughout the match. I think most of my returns were reactions rather than informed shots, but we were just happy for any point we could scrape!

Ellie: Who knew that tennis takes so long? This match took us 2 hours and we were really speeding along at the end to try and get all the games in. It's tricky to get the power levels right without dropping the ball into the net or sending it into the car park but once you get a few shots on target it's very satisfying. It was lovely to be partnered with Sarah; we seem to be on opposing teams during this challenge so it was nice to get some high-fives on the go. Claire and Laura were superb opponents and it was a pretty even game. I think luck had a lot to do with the majority of points scored and we went from deuce to advantage and back to deuce again a lot! It was a lovely evening and I can imagine playing again for fun once our challenge is finished.

Huge thanks to our fantastic opponents Laura and Claire!

Saturday, 18 July 2015

80. 400m Individual Medley

Event: 400m Individual Medley
Date: 26th June 2015
Location: London Aquatics Centre
Cost: £3.50 each
Rules:  The Swimmer competes in equal distances of every swimming style. The event combines technique, speed and endurance. The swimmer completes 100ms of Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke and Free style. Some part of the swimmer must touch the wall at the end of each length and at the finish.

The Event: 

Olympic Gold Medal London 2012: 4:28.45, Ye Shiwen, China.
Sarah: 13:56.80
Ellie: 15:20.24

Sarah: Having done no swim training in months, I wasn't looking forward to this one. After a few practice lengths to remember how to do some weird form of Butterfly, we just got stuck in. It turned out there wasn't much to dislike about this event; two lengths of each stroke gave a really nice variety, lots of tumble turns (never get bored of them) and best of all, the last time we'll ever have to do Butterfly hurray! 
Ellie: Swimming in an Olympic pool is very special and today it was wonderfully peaceful and the sun shone outside. The 400m medley is a tricky one; just as you get into the flow of the stroke you have to change and I definitely struggled with some of the turns - performing odd acrobatic somersaults that didn't help me in the least! It was great to be back in the water though and remind myself that swimming for pleasure is something I should do more often. So that is one less swimming event to do and no more Butterfly stroke but each time we tick off a swimming event in the pool brings us nearer to our very long outdoor swim and that is terrifying!!

Thursday, 18 June 2015

79. 800m

Event: 800m
Date: 7th June 2015
Location: Colchester Athletics Track 
Cost: Free
Rules:  Runners race twice around a 400m track. They start from a standing-start and run in lanes. A reaction time of less than 0.1 is deemed a false start and runners will be recalled, with the responsible athlete disqualified. A runner can also be disqualified if they step out of their designated lane.

The Event: 

Olympic Gold Medal London 2012: 1:56.19, Mariya Savinova, Russia.
Sarah: 4:23.21
Ellie: 8:00.26

Sarah: Just two little laps of the track, how hard could that be?! I found it so difficult to get my pace right, and probably went too slowly on the first lap and a half. Our coach gave me some good training tips to try and increase my time when we return to the 800m as part of the Heptathlon.
Ellie: I thought I would approach these 800m in a different way today. I have been reading a lot of things lately about how people talk to themselves in a derogative way and how unhealthy that is so my 800m was all about positive thinking. 800m without disrespecting myself, without putting myself down... I found it really hard. Doing exercise when surrounded by fit young things throws up a lot of hurdles for me (sorry, bad pun)... so I made myself comment on the weather, how healthy it was for me to even be brisk walking this distance and how good it would feel to finish. Before I began I had said to Sarah that I would be happy with 8 minutes and, thanks to a little spurt on the home stretch, that's what I got. Maybe I can reduce that for my next go? 

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

78. Rowing - Single Skulls

Event: Rowing - Single Skulls
Date: 25th April 2015
Location: Sudbury Rowing Club
Cost: £100 Learn to Row Taster
Rules: Women's rowing events were first included in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Races are held on rivers, canals or lakes over a distance on 2,000 metres. Races start under the supervision of an aligner and a starter, with umpires positioned along the course and at the finish line. The Single Skulls category sees one rower in each boat, rowing as fast as possible over the course. 

The Event:

London 2012 Olympic Gold Medal: 7:54.37 Miroslava Knapova, Czech Republic

Sarah: The float stabilisers definitely gave us a bit of a cheat on this one, but they meant that we didn't have to worry too much about toppling in, and could concentrate on our stroke and overall technique. Left to my own devises, I found it really hard to stick to the edge of the river and constantly had to correct my position on the water so other boats could glide past. It took a while for me to master coordinating the oars, and I got some bruised knuckles in the process, but I definitely felt I improved; through lots of riverside encouragement and trial, error and wobbles.

Ellie: Rowing in the single boats is a whole different kind of pressure; for starters we moved from using one oar to two and it is definitely not as easy as Bridget Jones makes it look! You need to be very precise with your movements and how you sit in the boat in order to simply move in a straight line - which is something I struggled with - let alone all the complicated arm movements, navigating, watching for other boats.... and getting in and out of the boat is difficult enough. AND a swan attacked me... well, it sort of flew over the top of me but it had that devilish look in it's eye, if you know what I mean. I think rowing is something I enjoy much more when in a boat with others especially whilst a novice; I felt much more at ease with others around. That being said, when the sun was out and I could take some calm strokes and gaze into the meadows, it felt very blissful... swan attacks aside. 


77. Rowing - Eight

Event: Rowing - Eight 
Date: 25th April 2015
Location: Sudbury Rowing Club
Cost: £100 Learn to Row Course
Rules: Women's rowing events were first included in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Races are held on rivers, canals or lakes over a distance on 2,000 metres. Races start under the supervision of an aligner and a starter, with umpires positioned along the course and at the finish line. The Eight category has eight rowers in the boat with one oar each. The cox shouts directions and encouragement to the rowers.

The Event:

London 2012 Olympic Gold Medal: USA

Sarah: After loving canoeing last year, I was really looking forward to rowing and getting back on (hopefully not in) the water. The feeling you get when gliding through the water in the sunshine is pretty unbeatable. The Eight was the first boat we tackled with the club, and over a few sessions we gradually built up from two people rowing with the others sitting (steadying) the boat, to all eight rowers pulling at the same time. It was more than a little wobbly at times, and a mix of exhilaration and terror when blades caught on the water and caused the boat to rock. With the help of our fearless cox, we persevered and no one fell in! We barely began to cover the techniques required, but for those few strokes where we were all synchronised, it was completely wonderful.

Ellie: Where to start with Rowing... well, we started with the Eight. Yes, just like the Oxford and/or Cambridge crews we powered up and down the River Stour... well, not quite like the boat race crews... I've never seen them looking like they were going to have some kind of fear induced panic attack. Or that they had completely forgotten everything that they were told 15 minutes ago. Or a look of alarm on their faces when things get a bit wobbly and they hadn't remembered a towel. Or like they have forgotten what side of the boat they were sitting on. Or what all the terminology means... or words in general for that matter...
Although it felt like the scariest way to start our rowing education, with hindsight, it was definitely the best. The load is shared between you, there is always someone to give you some tips and analyse what you are doing - for better or worse - and you don't have to worry about looking where you are going or where you are steering. As Sarah says, the times when we all rowed together or you were on a streak of good form and things clicked felt wonderful and you could really appreciate the passage you were making along the water and how it would be possible, given a lottttt of time and practice, to be able to call yourself someone who can row. 


Saturday, 2 May 2015

76. Rhythmic Gymnastics - Individual All-Round

Event: Rhythmic Gymnastics - Individual All-Round
Date: 14th April 2015
Location:  South Essex Gymnastics Club, Basildon Sporting Village
Cost: £5.50 per lesson 
Rules: Rhythmic Gymnastics is one of the two sports performed exclusively by women. The sport is a combination of gymnastics and dance, with gymnasts performing choreographed movements to music using hand apparatus such as rope, hoop, balls, club and ribbon. In individual competitions, gymnasts perform with two of the apparatus on the first day, and the other two on the second day. Their scores are added, and in the final they perform with all four apparatus.  
The Event:



London 2012 Winner: Yevgeniya Kanayeva, Russia.


Sarah: We had an introduction to all the different apparatus, then got to choose our favourite for the individual routine. I had a ribbon when I was little, and thought there may be a vague chance I could at least keep it moving for the duration of the routine. I found the individual routine so uncomfortable; much like I found with the artistic gymnastics floor routine, the thought of everyone watching whilst I stumbled through made me cringe! There's safety in numbers in the team!

Ellie: I think I chose the clubs to see what could be done with something a little harder and less glamorous - a description that could be applied to me! I felt a real difference between the equipment and how I 'performed' with them - the ribbon made me floaty, the hoop made me giddy! and the clubs made me feel quite technical... Again, I really enjoyed this routine but as Sarah says, there is nowhere to hide when you are performing on your own!