First of all, how was your club social trip to Bulgaria over the summer?
Alex: “Yes, it was really fun! 22 of us went, and we all just chilled on the beach and partied a few nights. It was the best way to get to know each other properly, and really brought us all together as a team.”
Ross: “We do it at the end of every year — it’s a nice way to finish and there are people graduating too, so it’s a final send off and a really nice way to end our year too.”
What did you do to get prepared for the World Championships?
Ross: “We trained quite a lot throughout the summer to get ready, and we had to raise about £6000 to take the 22 of us over there. We did a few things to fundraise — we did a crowdfunding webpage which quite a few people got behind. I also went and taught seminars around the UK for other clubs and instead of paying they donated their fee towards our trip. We raised a couple of hundred pounds through that and it was a good mix of clubs, with some with children as young as six, and others with people in their fifties. Then we had a really nice message whilst we were in Bulgaria actually — one of the highest Grand Masters in the UK, Grand Master Ray O-Neil, heard about our campaign and without having met us, he offered to come and teach a seminar and the money raised from that would go towards the club. We made about £400 from that and in total we did manage to raise the £6000. MMU gave us £2000 which was fantastic. We trained and we fundraised at the same time, which was the best way to do it. We also got a nice offer through Twitter — our campaign was picked up by the Executive of the GB Olympic squad. He said we could use the GB Olympic training facility to get ready for the Worlds. It’s up in North Manchester and we went there on two weekends in September. It’s a state of the art facility that the Olympians use to train every day of the week, so having that space to train in was fantastic.”
Tell us what it was like competing at the Worlds.
Alex: "It was really overwhelming. It was so exciting — we couldn’t believe it when were getting on the plane, and landing there. We got up every day really early, to grab food at the hotel and head over to where we needed to be. With people there from all over the world, the schedule didn’t quite run as expected. We ended up waiting around and sometimes we had twelve hour days. We had to keep warm, stretch and get everybody in the right place. It was amazing though — the best thing was other teams cheering for everyone else. There was no negativity and everyone was just there together to support the sport and the art. It was a really nice welcoming atmosphere and it was an honour to be there. We were there competing against the elite national squads of every other country, and we’re just a little club that thought ‘let’s give it a go’ — we did so well!”
Ross: "So out of the 21 that competed, we came away with three gold medals, so that’s three World Champions. We also won thirteen silver medals and fifteen bronze medals over the four days — there were 37 countries and 2500 competitors in total. Like Alex said, it was amazing. The level of these people is insane! They are the world’s best, and we really were amongst the elite and it was very exciting. To do so well against all those countries, it was really special for me. I remember when I started the club in 2011, my dream was to get to the World Championships. For me, it was an overwhelming experience to fulfil that — the dream was to get one medal and we came away with 31.”
What difference do you think this achievement has made to the team?
Alex: “I think having more confidence — some people from our club haven’t been doing it very long. Even though Ross is so supportive, sometimes it takes actually achieving something for people then realise that they are doing really well and improving all the time.”
Ross: “It just goes to show how much skill and drive there is in the club. I think it’s inspired a lot of members, and it’s great that our new members have something to aspire to as well. There’s a really great feeling in the club now — not only is it a family, but people are more confident and know how much they can achieve and really get out of it."
So what’s next for the club?
Alex: "We’ve got a competition in a few weeks - the UK Nationals, and we’ll probably send the whole club down to Nottingham for that."
Ross: "Then we’ve got Fight Night 3 on December 1, and then the European Competition will be next year at some point. We’ve been invited back to the World Championship in South Korea in 2019 so that’s the next big one to aim for!"
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