Nothing quite matches the prospect of gauging your skills against other Kendoka from all around the country in the UK University Championships. It’s a bizarre mixture of self-belief and insecurity, anxiously wondering whether you have trained enough over the past year, whilst at the same time eagerly awaiting the jump into the bout. And the feelings only mount with each mile that gets you closer to London, where the event is held.
This sensation was shared by all 13 members of our club who decided to make the trip, but especially by the new members for whom it was a first. As two teams, we entered the Queen Mary University (the host and defending vice-champion) sports hall with some hype to live up to: GUKC placed third in last years’ competition, narrowly losing to Edinburgh which later went on to bring the gold to Scotland for the very first time.
A first glance upon arrival revealed that all the big names were already gathering; Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, Imperial, Edinburgh, SOAS, and of course QMU; all in all 108 contenders representing 16 different universities, forming 15 teams of five fighters each.
Early spoils came with the first event: ladies’ individual. Sakiko Niwa stormed through the competition to reach for the most valuable ore. This competition also marked the very successful performance of some of our newest members.
In the men’s individuals, Kasper Yearwood and Kyle Brogan had to settle for bronze in the Dan category following tough fights in the semis, with Kyle securing the “Kantosho” fighting spirit award. The event’s prime accolade, the team championship to determine this year’s best University dojo in the UK, proved to be quite a nail-biter. GUKC Team A, led by Owen Connon, faced a tough opposition from Oxford University at the onset of the knockout stage, missing out on the win by just a whisker. Team B, led by club captain Kasper Yearwood, stormed through to the final eliminating Imperial, UCL and SOAS along the way. Ready to square off for the title and make up for last years narrow miss at it was the hosting Queen Mary University.
The two teams gave a fantastic, neck-and-neck performance leading to a 2-2 tie prior to the captains’ fight.
After a lengthy tense affair, a single successful cut in the last minute of the bout secured victory for Glasgow; the Championship Trophy was ours to take back to Scotland.
This win was the final coup in Glasgow’s dominating performance at the event, topped off with securing the honour of hosting the tournament next year.
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