11pm yesterday, solidly, until 9am this morning. I’ll take that for a first night of sleep back in Blighty after an overnight flight home from Montreal on Monday evening. Canada, wow, what a place and great group of people. I love travelling, always have, I must say though that it has been some years since I enjoyed a trip quite so much, will definitely be getting back over there to see more at some stage.
It’s great to be back out on the international stage after 7 months away; although coming out on the losing end of a tight call to a good and tricky Canadian lad I feel better physically and mentally than I have in a long time, possibly ever. I was 30 a few months back and am still enjoying the whole process of training and competition as much or more than I have in the previous 26 years at it. I believe I am improving in plenty of areas too, more testing at tournaments is required to evaluate whether they transfer over to competitive performance though. From a competitive stand point improvements aren’t a very real reality if they can’t be translated from training into the competition arena.
Great Britain and Ireland had some great performances at the weekend. Notable efforts were a hard fought silver for Amy Livesey (GBR), bronze for Megan Fletcher (IRE), 5th for Ashley McKenzie (GBR) but for me, and anyone that knows him, the Bronze medal won by Nathon Burns (IRE) was the stand out result. This was Nath’s first medal at an International Judo Federation World Tour event. He’s been a full time athlete for 14 years, has worked incredibly hard and made virtually all the sacrifices that could be considered. I said to Nath the next day after having lunch with our coach Luke that he is more than likely (I’m open to correction) the oldest first time medallist ever at a Grand Prix level event. I find it inspiring and motivating to see people like Nath and Megan, who has also taken her first medals at World Tour events over these past 12 months, getting on the bigger rostrums finally after chipping away for years and years. Watching stories like that unfold only affirms to me more that Judo really fucking is a lifetime thing. People gaining personal bests in their 30’s and still showing the willingness and desire to keep training and living the required lifestyle. It just goes to show how special our sport really is, and how powerful the drive to do it is. What I take from those efforts echos something we are taught and shown in Camberley, that anyone can make it if the required work is put in and the willingness to stay the course is there, whatever and however long it takes. Sometimes sailing in uncharted waters can be frustrating and almost disheartening, seeing really strong performances like that of a fair few of the British and Irish fighters recently, for me at least, provides hope.
On to Budapest tomorrow for this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix.