N.I.T.A Haley Nalepa Memorial tournament, England
Several members of the Warrior Tae Kwon Do Irish squad were in action in the recent Haley Nalepa memorial competition which was held in Cheltenham, England. The team, consisting entirely of black belts, travelled to Cheltenham on the day before the competition where they spent the day relaxing and preparing for the difficult task of securing medals the next day.
It was an early start on Sunday morning as we headed to the arena at 9 o’clock for height checks and weigh-ins. The competition was well attended by competitors from all over England, Scotland and Wales. This did not faze the younger competitors as everyone was up for the challenge. Master Clive Harrison (Event Organiser and Warrior Tae Kwon Do Black Belt examiner) started the day by saying a few heartfelt words about his late student Haley Nalepa, whom the tournament was held in memory of and made a presentation to her parents, who are also students of his. The competition was then underway.
First up was the patterns division. The junior black belt division was mixed with both boys and girls facing off for the title of patterns champion. All of our junior black belts were in the same section for patterns but there were no hard feeling as first place went to Eugene Birlea, for his performance of Ge Baek and second place went to his team mate Sean Ó Broin. Aishling O’Driscoll was in the running for third place and, after performing Ge Baek two more times, she was unlucky on this ocassion and ended up outside the medal rankings. The division had over twenty competitors so it was a great start for the Warriors.
Anne O’Mahony performed the pattern Po-Eun and secured a well deserved third place in Senior Female Black Belt patterns. Dwayne Crowley performed Ge Baek as he went up against a packed Senior Male Black belt patterns division. He was called to play off for third place and, just as with team-mate Aishling previously, he had to settle for 4th place.
After the patterns sections were completed the Warriors got ready to go to war in their respective sparring divisions. W.O.M.A.A junior world champion Aishling O’Driscoll started the day off by dominating her point sparring division en-route to a well deserved gold. She changed tactics slightly in the continuous sparring division by pushing forward with fast combinations and sharp punching to secure a silver medal, which was no easy task considering she was giving away a huge reach advantage against most of her opponents.
Team mates Eugene Birlea and Erik Hilmer competed for the same title of junior heavy weight black belt champion in both the point sparring and continuous sparring sections. Both won their first and second fights convincingly but were unlucky in their third fights which lead to a third place play off between the team mates in both the points and continuous sections! They put on a great display of sparring in both of their fights against each other but Eugene was declared winner in point sparring, while their continuous sparring bout was declared a draw following extra time and both fighters received joint third place.
Sean Ó Broin was next up in the junior Black belt middle weight event. Sean fought with the confidence of an old pro, even though it was his first time competing abroad, securing a bronze medal in both the point sparring and continuous sections. Not to be outdone, his sister Aoife Ní Bhroin fought with the heart and confidence that earned her the W.O.M.A.A junior lightweight black belt world title and dominated both the point and continuous divisions to recieve two well earned first place trophies.
Anne O’Mahony took to the mat to fight in the senior female black belt section. Anne fought hard against very experienced opponents but she called on her own wealth of sparring experience to recieve silver in both the points and continuous sections.
And finally I.C.K.K.F and W.O.M.A.A world champion Dwayne Crowley returned to competition to fight in the senior black belt heavyweight division. Despite giving away a weight advantage Dwayne used fast kicking and hand combinations to earn the bronze. Unfortunately due to a knee injury sustained in the points sparring division he was unable to compete in the continuous section.
Over all this was a very successful tournament for the Warriors. All of the Warrior team and coaches would like to thank Master Clive Harrison of the N.I.T.A for the invitation to the tournament and for making us feel so welcome.