40th EKF Junior & Cadet Championships & -21 Cup, Konya, Turkey - 8-10
Double Junior European Silver for Aimee
A truly emotional roller-coaster ride for Karate Girl, Aimee
Sell, competing at the 40th Cadet, Junior and U21 European Karate
Championships which were held in Konya, Turkey. Aimee was no stranger to
Konya after competing there in 2011 in the Children’s Youth Games and the
stadium hosting these championships was used for the opening ceremony for
the Youth Games so there were some familiar surroundings for her.
Aimee’s preparations had been going well for both individual and team Kata categories training extremely hard to cater for both events. Aimee and her Kata teammates, Natalie Payne and Melissa Williamson, trained together practically every weekend leading up for these championships and had left no stone unturned in the run-up to their final preparations. Yet exactly one week before Aimee was due to compete in Konya, she was in hospital having an x-ray on her ankle after landing badly and twisting it at the end of the squad’s pre-training session. The x-ray revealed no broken bones, just soft tissue damage. This could have been a devastating setback, especially after being advised not to travel, let alone compete, but she showed the same resolve and spirit she had following her eye surgery when advised then to quit Karate and she was determined not to let her teammates or the squad down.
On crutches for the first few days following her injury she then had her foot heavily strapped up to allow her to travel to Konya on the Wednesday, just three days before she was due to take to the mats. The squad’s Physio, Mo, had done a brilliant job looking after Aimee, strapping and taping her ankle to aid her recovery and allow her to train which she did for the first time on Thursday, an apprehensive moment which would determine if she was fit enough or not to compete. With encouragement from England Kata coach, Jonathan Mottram, and a few crossed fingers she came through the session unscathed. Game on…? Well nearly as she developed a cold and had lost her voice by Friday, the first day of the championships! Luck definitely wasn’t on her side and any result would be down to sheer will power.
Female Junior 16-17 years Individual Kata
With the new Kata rules implemented for these championships which had now
removed the requirement for compulsory Katas this was going to be an
interesting test on depth of knowledge and ability. Aimee was comfortable
with five rounds of non-compulsory Katas having a good range in her arsenal.
All that remained was the tactical element of which Kata to perform in her
rounds and a prayer that her tapped-up ankle would hold out. In fairness
Aimee said she was now more worried about her cold, not being able to breath
and Kiai properly. Her ankle was sore, her throat was soar, but she battled
through and didn’t disappoint.
In the 1st round Aimee was drawn blue to perform second after her Swedish opponent, Elin Ernekrans had performed her Kata. By chance both girls chose to perform Nipaipo Kata for their opening start to the competition. Sporting her Kaze Rebel Kata gi Aimee was looking good and an excellent Kata performance saw her take the win 5 flags to 0 to ease her way into round two.
The 2nd round pitted Aimee against Rabia Kusmus representing host nation Turkey. Competing against the home nation is always going to be tough as they have that extra drive and crowd encouragement to perform well, but it wasn’t well enough on this occasion for Turkey as Aimee’s strong performance of Annan Kata beat her opponents Chatanyara Kushanku Kata 4 flags to 1. A tough round to win which gave Aimee some extra confidence going into round three.
Now into the quarter-finals for the 3rd round saw Aimee back to blue to perform second following the opponent’s Kata. Her Latvian opponent, Larisa Agafonova, performed Jion with Aimee following performing Suparimpei. All flags went Aimee’s way giving her a 5-0 win. A strong determined performance saw her gear up for one more round to make the final.
In the 4th round pool final Aimee faced Anna Kreshchenko representing the Ukraine. Aimee being red this time performed her Kata first, a strong and solid Chatanyara Kushanku and then watched on as her opponent performed a sharp and snappy Annan Kata. Aimee had faced her Ukrainian opponent before in her last Junior Europeans in 2011 in Serbia. Back then Aimee won the round 4-1 on her way to the final, albeit in a different round, and this time it was a repeat performance as a 4 flags to 1 decision saw Aimee make her second consecutive Junior European final. Against the odds with all that had happened to her, she made the final once again as she sunk to her knees on the decision, all her emotions flooding to the surface in a mass release.
The finals were held at the end of the day following all the eliminations rounds for both Kata and Kumite which gave the finalist plenty of time to prepare for the showcase events.
A long apprehensive wait for the final eventually came to an end as Aimee was called to the centre mat to face her final opponent, Margarita Morata, representing Spain. This was a repeat of the 2011 Junior European final featuring both girls, back then Aimee claimed silver...could she go one better?
Aimee was drawn blue for the final and performed Unshu Kata following Morata’s Annan performance. Aimee looked in top form throughout her performance but landed her 360 degree jump more on her right foot instead of equally on both feet (perhaps physiologically protecting her left ankle), but that was enough to award the gold to her now three-time European Champion opponent who produced a faultless display winning 5 flags to 0.
Although she didn’t manage to claim gold this time, she made a gold medal effort overcoming her setbacks to make the final without being 100% fit.
Aimee had now made history by being England’s first junior female to claim a second Junior European Kata silver medal and her third consecutive European medal with her team Kata bronze won in Izmir in 2010.
Female Junior Team Kata
There was no time to celebrate or rest as Aimee was back in action the
next morning with the teammates, Natalie and Melissa, competing in the Team
Kata event for England. Aimee was part of the England’s bronze medal winning
Kata team in 2010 but was determine to beat that target in 2013. Months of
hard work and training for the team had come down to one day; this was there
moment to make history.
The England team were drawn first and right at the top of the draw list meaning they had to perform as red in every round which meant performing every round first. But that didn’t deter them as they had prepared hard and were confident in their abilities.
The 1st round pitted team England against Serbia. England performed an excellent Annan Kata with Serbia performing Gojushio-Sho. It was a comfortable 5-0 win for England following their polished performance with all judges voting England’s way.
Team England faced Croatia in the 2nd round and opted to perform a strong and sharp Bassai-Dai Kata. Croatia performed Kanku-Sho but once again a convincing 5 flags to 0 win saw England cruise into the pool semi-final.
With one more Kata to perform to make the evening’s showcase final, England performed a tricky Chatanyara Kushanku Kata. This is a long Kata with over 70 moves and a jump so it’s a very tough Kata to perform in team. Team England produced a masterful display of synchronisation, speed and power to nail the Kata leaving their opponents with an uphill struggle to match it. Their opponents from Greece chose to perform Bassai-Dai. Once again England won the round 5 flags to 0 to make the final in dominate fashion. England have never before had a female Kata team make a Junior European final, history made!
The Female Team Kata final was held as the very last event of these championships following all the remaining finals, England versus host nation Turkey. The male Kata teams were performed first with Turkey taking the win over Russia in front of the partisan crowd, now it was the turn of their female team to try and emulate their male compatriots. However, the Turkish team hadn’t dominated their elimination rounds as England had done which put England as firm favourites on paper going into the final, but the home advantage would prove a factor too.
Team England performed their Nipaipo Kata first followed by their Bunkai (application of the Kata moves) to great applause from the crowd. Turkey next performed Chatanyara Kushanku. Not a faultless Kata performance as highlighted by the crowd but a good Bunkai application. The flags went 4 blue – 1 red. Turkey had claimed their 11th gold of the championships leaving England with just 2 golds (second highest medal count which shows just how big that home advantage was). The crowd reaction left the judges in no doubt as to what they thought of their decision but the girls had to settle for silver knowing they gave a gold medal winning performance.
The girls, Natalie, Melissa and Aimee were naturally disappointed but looking back they did magnificently and deserved to be on the podium collecting England’s final medal of the championships. England had finished the championships claiming 2 Gold, 2 Silver and 4 Bronze medals with all but two bronzes coming from the Kata squad who won 6 medals out of 8 categories, another record!
Still aged only 17 years, Aimee’s record breaking success continues as she has made history again:
- England’s first junior to win two Kata medals at the same Junior European Championship.
- England’s first junior female to make two consecutive Junior European Kata finals.
- England’s first junior female to win a third consecutive European medal with her team Kata bronze won in Izmir in 2010, Kata silver in Novi Sad in 2011 and Kata silver in Konya in 2013.
- Aimee has four European medals from three consecutive European Championships – three European Silvers and one European Bronze.
Many thanks to England National Kata Coach Sensei Jonathan Mottram who selected, coached and encouraged her to the podium. Thanks also to England Physio Mo Surdar for doing an amazing job on Aimee’s ankle and supporting her. A final special thanks to Johan Samson and Kaze Northern Europe (www.kaze-sport.dk) for supporting Aimee and being Aimee’s gi supplier giving her the very best ‘tools’ to do the job.