Hello, I’m writing this month’s blog from my flat in Manchester on a very wet and cold July day, in complete contrast to the places we have been competing in recently…
In late June we spent a week training and playing against the Italian national squad in a town called Avezanno. We flew into Rome where we hopped onto a bus with the Italians and drove for a couple of hours way up into the mountains; it was really beautiful and very hot! We were there for five days of serious training spending a minimum of five hours a day in the pool — 2-3 hours in the morning and the same in the evening — plus a gym session. Although it was well above 30 degrees every day we spent most of the week indoors (the pool was indoors), but we were allowed an hour out in the sun on the last evening.
All this training was in preparation for our next Euro Qualifier match against Spain in Bilbao the following weekend. This was going to be the fourth time we’d played Spain in the last couple of months and each time previously we had just narrowly been defeated. In Bilbao, unfortunately, the trend continued with score of 10-6. This was really frustrating because we were even throughout most of the match apart from a couple of minutes in the last quarter when it fell apart for us and Spain capitalised by scoring a few quick goals which lead them to victory.
After the match we remained in Bilbao for a couple of days for a training camp against the Spaniards. This ended up getting very aggressive — in one session a Spanish player even threw a few above-the-water punches before she was removed from the pool! A number of us girls came home covered in scratches and bruises.
Next on our schedule is the University World Games in Shenzhen, China, in August. We are participating because it’s a similar event to the Olympics so we will use the experience to practise our routine for next year. Like the Olympics it is a huge multi-sport event where we’ll be staying in the athlete village, eating in the athlete food court and so on. We’ll only be competing every second day which means the tournament will last over two weeks, so we will use the ‘rest’ days to train and keep our fitness up for the last couple of matches. I’m particularly excited about this trip because my dad is flying over from New Zealand to watch. We are going to stay on for a few days afterwards, with my brother, who is also flying over from London to support the team.
So, this time next month I will be in China, half way through the tournament! I will write from over there to update you on the scores, say how hot and sticky it is and tell you about all the crazy food we’ve tried. I have seen a few photos already of the athlete accommodation and the toilets are on the balconies! Should be fun!
Until then, Ciao, Francesca.