Commonwealth Fencing Championships - Largs
Below is the second competition diary from GBR Men's Fencer and KYMIRA Athlete, Ben Peggs.
The Diary picks up at the end of the trip to Japan:
It was very early and I was exhausted. My body hurt and all I wanted to do was lay in bed watching a good movie. But instead I had to drag my bag, now even heavier due to the amount of sweat in my kit, to the airport and board an 11 hour journey to London. This time there was no escape and I had to pay for extra weight! Ouch! The trip back to London was long and cramped. My legs were stiffening up hour by hour, with the only relief being the extremely attractive air hostess. Upon arrival to London I went straight for food! As I mentioned in my last blog food is often at the top of my mind and will feature a lot in my blog entries! I went straight to Wagamama's and got myself a Chicken Katsu Curry. Such a great dish! Probably not the best choice but the best I could do in an airport. Flight number two rolled around and even though it's a quick 'up and down' to Scotland it still felt long. At this point I was so wrecked I couldn't fall asleep. I know that's contradictory, however sometimes you reach a point where you're so exhausted but have had such little sleep that your body seems to just keep running regardless of whether you have the chance to sleep or not.
Finally we touched down in Glasgow and I was greeted by the tall, smiling figure of my Dad. He and Mum had decided to stay in Largs (the small town just outside Glasgow where the Commonwealth Championships were being held) to watch me compete. Dad grabbed my bags, a welcomed relief and we walked to the car. En-route to the little cottage Dad explained that Mum hadn't been able to make it. Unfortunately our cat had been taken ill and Mum had to stay home and look after him. I say cat, he's more the size of a small Panther. Jet black and very mischievous sometimes. Therefore it was another father and son week.
The individual event was on Wednesday, I arrived at the cottage late on Sunday night. I had two days to recover and would do that with my Dad at the cottage. After Wednesday I would join team England in our official accommodation. As captain of the men's foil team (foil is the weapon I compete in, there another two weapons, sabre and épée) I had to do my best to show my face and be around for other team members. Hard to do when you're jet lagged and just want to sleep but it was an honour that I was very pleased to receive. Monday night was the opening ceremony. I met the rest of the team and had a good catch up. We watched the opening ceremony and also cheered on Dudley Tredger (ENG) from men’s épée as he took the gold medal in style! At this point you must be thinking I'm mad going from Tokyo to Glasgow and trying to compete again in short succession. If so, you're right! However due to an international season change it couldn't be helped. The Commonwealth Fencing Championships had always been placed just before the start of the official season however the FIE changed the competition calendar and the Champs ended up being surrounded by World Cups. With Olympic qualification on the horizon I was never going to turn down a place on the GB team, or the England team for the Commonwealths for that matter.
The individual event arrived, weapons control and accreditation had all been done in the days before and we had a start time of 8am. Just to clarify, that's on the piste for the first fight at 8am! Even if I condense my warm up and preparation it still takes an hour. Therefore I was arriving at the venue at 7am, so it was a 6am alarm... urgh! The poule round went very well, I won all my fights, even beating GB team mate Jamie Fitzgerald who was representing Scotland. I was then seeded number 3 after the poule. I received a bye through the Last 64, and then beat an athlete from New Zealand in the Last 32. In the Last 16 I drew GB team mate Keith Cook who had made the decision not to compete in Japan. By this point in the day I was tired, very tired. Due to the live streaming a lot of the direct elimination fights were scheduled later on in the day. Fencing Keith on top form is hard enough but when you're feeling below par it's going to be a battle. Unfortunately I lost the fight 15-10 and finished 10th in the individual. I was very disappointed. I was a big medal hope and I had been on great form, however the trip from Japan had taken the wind out my sails. I was shattered.
A team dinner and a good laugh bought my morale back up. I had to put all energy into the team event now. On paper we had the strongest team. After two more days of recovery I was feeling much more myself. The morning of the team event rolled around. We had a much more leisurely start, with kick off around midday. With the team event it’s a straight knock out with the teams seeding being taken on the results of the individual. Our seeding meant we had a bye through the Last 16. Our first match in the Last 8 was against Northern Ireland. I decided to rest this match and let the rest of the team dispatch the Irish, which they did comfortably. With a team event each athlete fights each other with three fencers in the each team. The teams fence to 45 hits in blocks of 5 with the score being accumulative. At these Championships we take five athletes for each category. Therefore I sat out in the first match whilst a team of three fenced the Irish with our fourth man as sub/reserve.
After the Irish we had a strong Singapore Team. Two of their team members had taken both bronze medals in the individual a few days before. Beating this team would put us into the final. Singapore had had a stress free run to the semi final so far. As had we, so this was the biggest challenge. This time I was fencing in the team and we had fielded our strongest combination. We took control from the beginning and never looked back, beating the Singapore team quite convincingly.
We had reached the final! We were joined by Scotland and this meant most of the final was made up of everyone who usually competes on the GB team. It seems somewhat strange now fighting against half your usual team in such a big competition. The final started off strong for us and once again we took an early lead. I managed to keep an even match with Keith Cook who had beaten me in the individual and our lead kept increasing. It came down to the final fight. We were leading 39-28. To win the match I just had to get to 45. I was against Jamie Fitzgerald, a former GB team mate who had won the individual event and I beat in the poule, he was on awesome form. In this scenario he had nothing to lose, it was do or die. I, on the other hand had everything to lose. Therefore the pressure was on. It was a tense fight with Jamie throwing everything he had at me. I slowly crept closer and closer to 45. At 44-41 I was tense. Jamie had made an amazing come back, but I held my nerve to clinch the last point and fell to my knees in relief! I was joined by my team mates in celebration. We were Team Commonwealth Champions. We had done one better than four years ago and won gold.
After an emotional medal ceremony, hearing the national anthem, signing autographs and a press interview, we were done! Time to relax and celebrate. We joined all the other teams and enjoyed a gala dinner and Scottish Ceilidh. It was a great evening with lots of laughs and on this occasion we did celebrate hard. Winning a major championships is always quite special and athletes do enjoy a party like everyone else. We hit Largs town hard and I don't think the "Lounge" (the bar we went to) quite expected to have about 200 international athletes descend upon it.
The morning after we headed to the airport, slightly worse for wear I will admit. But it had been worth it. We had had a great Championships and a great evening. It was time to return home and relax for a few
days. However after a few days off it was back to training. Life for me and the other British athletes wouldn't stop yet. In a week or so we were heading to Italy for a training camp prior to the first Grand Prix of the season. As we took off I slowly drifted off to sleep with the good memories from the week and thoughts of the challenges that still lay ahead...
Here is a video of the match, it is rather long so if you want to see the last minute of the men's foil team finals which is me and Scottish athlete Jamie Fitzgerald skip ahead to 1:00.00 http://youtu.be/aPrMweUyjWY