Well, we are still in the middle of what seems like a very long three months of fitness training. Szilvester is pushing us really hard in the pool with some killer swim and leg sets and he keeps telling us it is only going to get harder! It’s also been difficult getting up in the mornings in the dark and cold, but at these times we really have to think about the bigger picture and who we will be facing in nine short months.
Last week we actually had a break from the normal routine to compete at the European club competition – Len Champions Cup. Unfortunately this year I wasn’t allowed to play with my beloved fellow Penguins because Szilvester decided that half of the national team would play for Liverpool and half for Manchester. His master plan was successful though, as both teams qualified for the quarter finals, making it into the top eight club teams in Europe for the first time ever!
With Liverpool I travelled to Serbia where it was freezing cold and really foggy all week. (On one day there was only 5m visibility and later in the week we were lucky that our return flight wasn’t cancelled since the airport had been closed for the previous three days!)
We went into the week ranked 6th out of the seven teams but we had to finish in the top four to qualify for the next round. Our first match was against the German club which, although we were up the whole time, was a nerve-wracking game as we only ended up winning by one goal, 6-5. We beat the French club, Nice, by a couple of goals and also the Serbian team easily, 12-4. These results were enough to put us through to the quarter finals where we will play in two ‘home and away’ matches against the number one ranked team from the other side of the draw, Pro Recco, from Italy. These matches aren’t until March next year.
The next big thing for us, of course, is the Europeans in the Netherlands in January. The draw was announced a couple of weeks ago and on our side of the pool we have Russia, Hungary and the Netherlands… a very hard draw! Our goal is to make the top six which, given the draw, definitely makes it a harder challenge. In this tournament the bottom team from each side of the pool will go straight through to the 7th-8th play off, unlike at the Olympics where even if you are 4th in your pool you will still play in a quarter final but against the 1st ranked team from the other side of the pool. Still, if we want to beat these countries later in the year then we need to be having these closely competitive matches with them in January!
I hope everyone’s Christmas shopping is going smoothly. Since we only have a week off training for Xmas I won’t be going back to New Zealand this year which gets me out of buying lots of pressies! I am quite looking forward to the break though, not least because it will be our last holiday until after the Olympics.
See you soon