Ni hao, from China!
I am currently writing to you from my room in the athlete village at the 26th World Universiade Games in Shenzhen, China. I’ve had the most amazing few weeks despite the extreme heat and some frustratingly close loses in the water! We have finished in 7th position, just below our tournament goal of making the top six.
We arrived in the village three weeks ago, very tired and hot. The volunteers were amazing and they ushered us through security and to our rooms. There are over 250,000 volunteers (apparently over 30,000,000 people applied!) — that’s more than 20 per athlete and you can’t walk 20m without someone checking if you’re ok or asking to take a photo with you. The security to get in and out of the athlete village is quite extreme. Everyone must have their photo accreditation on them and You put all your belongings through an x-ray machine, walk through a metal detector and get scanned. You do this every time you go in and out!
The first few days here were spent training and getting over our jet lag. We played a couple of friendlies against Australia and Russia and won both.
Our first official match of the tournament was against Canada which ended as a draw, 8-8. Our next pool matches were against China where we had a really competitive game, then Italy where we ended up losing in the last minute, 10-9. This was heartbreaking as we were up by 3 goals at half time and had beaten this team earlier in the year.
After the Italy game I think it was challenging for all of us to keep our heads up, but we went into the quarter finals against USA the next day highly determined to win. We started out strongly, holding the lead 5-3 at the end of the first quarter. But we couldn’t quite hold them off so despite a really good match, they won 11-8. This put us out of medal contention and we were devastated! After losing to Australia the next day we went on to take 7th place easily by beating France, 8-4, and then Mexico, 15-3.
In a way I think coming 7th may have more of a positive effect on the team in the long run than if we had won a medal. Now we all know how much hard work we need to put in over the coming months and we have made a pact to remember how much it hurts to lose.
Despite underperforming it has still been an incredible trip and we have learnt so much about what it will be like next year in London.
The food court in the athlete village is unbelievable. Imagine a food court in a shopping centre except everything is free, even McDonalds (although we were not allowed this!). People-watching here is an eye-opener too… you are surrounded by giant basketballers and weightlifters eating ten plates of food alongside 5ft gymnasts who eat nothing!
We had a couple of crazy experiences with the Chinese public. For example, we went out to watch the basketball one day and as soon as one of us said yes to a photo we literally had thousands of people swarming around us and asking for photos. Some even handed us their babies to have a picture with! We ended up having to get escorted out of the crowd!
What’s next? We now have a week’s holiday before returning to Manchester. AFter that we only have a couple of weeks training before Germany, Canada and China arrive for an invitational tournament. Then it’s our next Euro Qualifier match against Ukraine at the end of September. If we win we will have qualified for Europeans in January. Come up and support us — it will be one of our last home matches before the Olympics.
See you there