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Tokyo

 

Hi, my name is Ben Peggs. I have recently joined the Kymira Team. I am a fencing athlete and I've       been competing as part of the GB senior foil squad for 5 years. I started fencing at the age of 10 at  school and soon realised this was the sport I was destined to be involved in. Over the coming years I  developed not only my skill but my love for the sport. I then started to go to a broader range of clubs  and competitions until I took the decision to leave school at the age of 16 and train full time with the  support of my family, coach and British Fencing. Now at the age of 24 I would consider myself quite an  accomplished athlete, with medals ranging from national to international. Some of my biggest success  has come in recent years, with a bronze medal at the Senior National Championships and Team Gold  at the Commonwealth Fencing Championships.

Over the coming weeks and months you can follow my progress as I compete around the globe on the World stage, with Olympic qualification starting in April of 2015.

In this entry I will talk about my recent journey to the Tokyo World.

 

It felt like I was about to embark on the busiest two weeks of my life and I was probably spot on. I woke up early on a typical November morning in London for my flight to Haneda (Tokyo). First thing was first, coffee! One thing I've come to realise in recent years is that I am somewhat addicted to coffee. As an athlete it's almost a must! After my morning brew I was ready to tackle the day. Luckily living with my family in Chiswick we aren't far from Heathrow. My Dad, the hero he is, kindly drove me to the airport. If you ever need someone in a tight spot he's your man, or certainly mine at least. My family are unbelievably supportive of what I do. My mum spends many hours with my brother, which left Dad with me. I can't honestly imagine a son having a more dedicated father. Our trips to the airport are somewhat the norm these days with me jetting off somewhere most weeks.

The thing you'll soon learn about fencing in the coming blogs is that we have a lot of kit. Actually we have a tonne of it. Now, spending two weeks on the road means lots of clothes, let alone all the equipment. Therefore we never travel light. Dad and I travel to the airport and smile sweetly at the lady at check in, praying she will ignore the few kilos my bag is. Luckily this time it works and my 25kg baggage is away. The next time I'll have to wrestle with it is in Japan. 

 I boarded the flight in the hope that this time I will sit down, not touch the TV screen and sort some emails, write some invoices, do some blogs, and give kit reports. However once again this doesn't happen. When you have movies like X-men and Planet of the apes to distract you, 

can I be blamed? I like to think I have good motivation but when it comes to admin I'm great at finding excuses.

After a long, 11 hour trip to Japan I finally arrive at the hotel. All I want at this point is a shower! Immediately after a shower food is needed. So a teammate and I go and find a sushi bar. Sushi and Korean BBQ are probably my two most favourite cuisines. It's probably the main reasons why I love going to Asia. Sleep is next on the agenda, these are the things that make up most of my life, train/compete, shower, eat/drink, and sleep. Quite important for any athlete.

 

We have a few days in Japan before the competition. This is mainly to get "acclimatised". Acclimatising is basically getting into the correct sleep pattern as there is a good 9 hours difference between Tokyo and London. You also need to get used to a few other things but sleep is the main reason. The day before the competition we have a very short training session consisting of a lesson from the coach. This involves going over scenarios and certain hits and actions you make during fights. This close to the competition you are only working on your strengths and getting the mind ready. Whilst at  the venue we go to weapons control. This is where the competition organisers check that your equipment is safe and legal... So far so good.

That evening we sit with our coaches and support staff going through the actions and tactics we should use against the opponents we have been drawn against. In all competitions we are placed into a "poule" with another 6 athletes. We each fight each other to five hits within three minutes. After this preliminary round of poules comes the direct eliminations. We are ranked according to our poule results and then the highest ranked fences the lowest ranked through each round until you have your final two guys. At a World Cup there are usually 128+ of the world’s best athletes. No one is to be underestimated. Most people are extremely accomplished by this point in their career.

 

On the morning of the competition I take a lesson from my coach after about a 30min warm up and then get on a "piste" (the fencing area, a bit like a football pitch, judo dojo, or racing circuit/track is to their respective sports) with a team mate and get fencing, going over actions and
tactics that you are looking to implement in the first round. 

There are always the first round nerves. However I've worked hard with sports psychologists to steady my mind and stay focused on the job in hand and not let your thoughts run away with you. People sometimes mock or are baffled as to why athletes need psychologist but let me explain one thing; If you've been training for 10 years to win an Olympic gold medal, its 14 all in the final and the next touch will either make or break a life time dream, trust me - you are bricking it! Therefore like you train your body, you must train your mind to deal with extreme pressure. Sometimes even your funding, the very basic and essential part of living can be taken away based on a poor performance. Professional sport can be fickle and cruel.

 

The start of the Japanese World Cup went well for me. I won four fights and narrowly lost only two matches. This gave me a good ranking and an exemption from the first round of direct eliminations. The first round of eliminations being the Last 128. Unfortunately one of the British athletes didn't make it out of the poule stages. If you lose too many fights in the prelims you are directly cut. In the round of 128 two more British athletes fell. In the round of the Last 96 another two went out. In the Last 96 I drew a Japanese fencer. It was a tough battle but in the end I came out on top. This qualified me for the Last 64, which would take place the following day. Out of the 9 British athletes only four made it through to day two. To qualify for day two requires a lot of experience and stamina. It is an extremely hard thing to do. As I mentioned before, every person competing is the most elite in their country and there are no idiots at this level. Everyone who is representing their nation is world class. Therefore, to make the top half of the field is a notable result in itself.

Day two appears as if from nowhere. With a late finish the day before my body is tired, but I'm running on adrenaline and ready to face a tough opponent. A Frenchman named Julien Mertine who two weeks earlier had placed in the top 16 of the San Francisco World Cup. At this stage of the competition the top 16 ranked fencers in the world join the tournament. They are exempt from day one due to their high placing in the FIE standings. I have a little while to prepare and take two lessons, one from my personal coach and one from the head national coach. This helps give variety and share ideas. The night before I had done some video analysis of my opponent with our statistician. Direct elimination fights are fought over 9 minutes to 15 hits. If you lose you are out, if you win you are through. Unlike the poule stages where you get to fight six other athletes.

 

The bout was extremely athletic. Mertine was playing his usual game of attacking his opponents and waiting for a "count attack" (a fast attack into his own). Mertine disguises his
intentions by making his attack look like it has an opening for a counter attack. However, if you fall into this trap he will deflect your blade and then hit you. We call this certain action counter timing. We traded hit for hit until 13 all. At which point the Frenchman's experience shone through and he closed out the fight out 15-13. Therefore I was out, finishing in the round of 64. Out of the four Brits to qualify for day two, all bar one lost in the round of 64. My final position was 53rd out of 163 of the world’s best athletes. Now, I know this might seem quite low but I am proud of it. I'm still a young athlete in senior terms. Fencers tend to mature and reach their peak in their later 20's. The body must be at its peak but so must the skill and experience, which takes many hours to train.

 


Finally, at last we get some down time. Everybody, no matter who you are, needs down time. Athletes need to look after their bodies and some things are a big no, no. However a relaxing drink with a team mate after a tough weekend of competition is usually needed. Let me get one thing straight though, it's one or two drinks, NOT a night out. After putting the world to rights we went to bed. Unfortunately I was about to start a mammoth journey to the other side of the world. Sunny Glasgow for the Commonwealth Fencing Championships!

 

Stay tuned for your look behind the scenes at my time in Glasgow and please post any comments and questions you have below…

 

December 16, 2014 by Tim Brownstone
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