21st WKF Senior World Karate Championships - 21-25th November 2012
Back of Gi with competitor name sown on
Melissa, Natalie, Jon & Aimee in stadium
Natalie, Melissa & Aimee at St Pancras Station
'Team England' outside the stadium in Paris
Monday 19th November 2012 saw Karate Girl, Aimee Sell, meet up with the senior England Karate squad members at London’s St Pancras Station as they prepared to board the Eurostar train that would take them to the 21st WKF Senior World Karate Championships being hosted in Paris. Aimee’s first England call-up was for the Junior World Championships in Morocco in 2009 where she also competed in team so it was befitting that her first senior championship call-up should also be a World Championship. Symmetry.
Aimee was competing in the Female Team Kata event with Barking Abbey teammate Melissa Williamson and Natalie Payne from Sale Dojo. The trio had worked really hard in the last few months leading up to these world championships and had put themselves into a good position to confidently deliver a good performance on the world stage. Team Kata is by far the hardest discipline in sport Karate to master as not only do they need to perform each Kata to their best ability, in total synchronisation and harmony with their teammates mimicking each others technique, they also have to develop a bunkai (demonstration to the meaning of the Kata) to be spectacularly performed in a medal round. This calls for serious dedication and commitment as there are major sacrifices on time as the training demands are huge. The team members also need to have very specific traits such as tolerance, patients and positivity in order to gel as a team. Team Kata is not to be taken lightly if it is to be performed at the highest level. And the girls didn’t take it lightly as they worked every available weekend and holiday to prepare themselves for the highest level of competition.
The girls, 'Team England', competed on the 2nd day of competition, Thursday 22nd November. They had a long wait as the team Kata events did not take place until 4:30pm but they stayed relaxed and kept their focus and composure until their category was called.
The team had been given a 1st round bye but were drawn against the experienced Italian team in the 2nd round. A tough draw facing the multiple World and European medallists and current bronze European and World medal holders but Team England were confident that their Kata had to be beaten by a very good Kata in order to stop their progression. Unfortunately that is exactly what happened. The Italian team performed a very strong and well drilled Bassai-Dai. Team England followed performing an equally well drilled Bassai-Dai but the Italians had it on pure strength and power and secured all the judges flags. The girls were not deflated as they produced their best on the big stage and it just came down to physicality on the day.
The Italians were on form at these championships as they then went on to the finals beating the home nation, France, on the way. That left Team England in the repechage semi-finals. A quick curtain call for girls and they quickly prepared themselves to face their next opponents, the current Pan-American silver medallists from Venezuela. If this was a daunting prospect, the girls showed no nerves as they casually walked into the arena acknowledging the English supporters on their way to the tatami mats. This time England performed first and performed an excellent Annan Kata with so much confidence and composure. Next Venezuela performed Heiku Kata, not as synced as England but possibly slightly stronger, so it was going to be close. 3 flags to 2 ... to Venezuela. So, so close but once again the girls were not disappointed knowing that they performed to their best ability and that’s all you can do. With Melissa and Natalie both still 16 years old and Aimee at only 17 years old tells a huge story about just how good there were giving the Pan-American runners-up a real test and nearly beating them. They were just one flag away from making the showcase repechage final.
The girls not only had the chance to perform on the largest stage possible, they had the opportunity to witness some great team Kata performances from the other nations competing which gives them so much more experience and confidence. They finished ranked 7th best in the world, the only England members, other that Jonathan Mottram who gained 5th place in individual Kata, to gain a world ranking classification for these championships. Once again Kata is leading the way in England above their Kumite counterparts.
They stayed for the remainder of the championships which ended on Sunday with the repechage finals and main final of the female team Kata event taking place, the event they were obviously keen on watching and analysing for themselves. Japan took both the female and male team Kata titles with some awesome displays, defeating Italy in both finals and looking like the teams to emulate.
Aimee with her 'Team England' teammates headed back to London on Monday via Eurostar with the rest of the England squad arriving at St Pancras at 5:40pm ending their Senior World Championships adventure, but just starting their epic journey as 'Team England'. Next stop, Junior European Championships in Turkey.
Special thanks to Natalie Payne and Karen Dolphin for sharing some of their photos.