IBJJF Masters International Championships – Europe 2019

The Masters International Championships Europe is now a couple of years old and regular readers will know that I have competed in every edition. This years event marked a year since my last time stepping up onto the mats and taking a break from competition. So it was definitely time to dust myself off and step up again! Plus I am currently at the very top end of my age group so I felt it was a good idea to say goodbye to Master 2 properly!

This year the event had moved to a new venue the Centre Esportiu Municipal Olimpics Vall d’Hebron. As the name suggested the venue was part of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. This venue was in a completely different part of the city to the previous years but it was slightly more central giving more options for hotels and Airbnb’s. We personally stayed approx 15 min from the venue in an aparthotel. The venue itself unsurprising was larger than the previous one so there were 12 mats in use (potentially!) with a Lidl approx 400m away (great for extra water and stocking up supplies). Other than that it was unremarkable – although the boys had lots of challenges with the loos both in terms of numbers and how many were blocked!

20190504_093513My competition preparation had gone reasonably well and I actually felt pretty good going out onto the mats. Although other than that there isn’t much to write about my performance. I have never done well in my category at this event and this year was no different! A mistake and a couple of schoolgirl errors saw me submitted and taking a default bronze. Full disclosure, I have never been so angry with myself in those moments following the match. It was probably the first time I didn’t just consider not doing the absolute but also hanging up my belt. Luckily I have some friends who know just what to text (and I found some doughnuts)!

From there the day went downhill for a lot more athlete than me. Slowly the mats stopped running resulting in the day getting further and further behind schedule. Until the whole system went down with an announcement that the competition would be paused for over an hour. This resulted in around a 4/5hr delay and slight carnage. The waiting around obviously wasn’t great for anyone and the schedule was jumping around which made it difficult for athletes to warm up let alone mentally prepare. Several athletes also ended up missing their matches due to having to catch their flights home.

As my teammates and hubby didn’t end up starting their matches till around 7:30pm I decided to do my absolute. I think it was in part because I was lucky enough to still be able to do it. Plus I had been there all day so I felt I should! My absolute took place around 8:30 / 9pm that night so unsurprisingly the original entry of 10 athletes was reduced with only 4 of us turn up to compete. Luckily for me, they were all on my side of the bracket so I had my own mini shark tank with a fresh opponent every round!

img-20190504-wa0006I already had a bye to the quarterfinals anyway which is where I fought the heavyweight silver medalist and was pleased to secure a submission reasonably quickly, my semi-final was a close points win against the featherweight gold medalist who was incredibly tough, never stopped moving and simply had legs that got everywhere! After that match, I was incredibly grateful to my referee who ensured my 10-minute break wasn’t shortened before the final. Unfortunately, there was no fairytale ending despite the support of my other opponents and the ring coordinator! My final opponent had taken default gold in the medium heavy category and due to the high number of no shows has got a bye to the final. A mixture of a tired takedown attempt being reversed followed by being stuck in the bottom half guard for the entire match saw her take the win. Silver isn’t my favourite colour but after the day I’d had I was just really glad to get the mat time (3 fights in under 30 minutes) and to truly work for an earn my medal.

By the time I had collected my medal, we decided to call it a day. My husband’s absolute didn’t end up happening until 1:30am and although he loves his sport we had been at the venue since 9:30am and really wanted to leave and eat! We have competed in IBJJF competitions around the world for over five years now and this is definitely the worst organisation we’ve experienced. That being said they are the main organisation offering not just a full range of masters categories for the men but also the same opportunities to female athletes. Plus the popularity of the event was clear when the entries closed two weeks early.  20190505_191322-1There has been a lot of chatter on the internet about what the IBJJF will or won’t do as a result of what happened.

From my viewpoint, I don’t think everyone should get a blanket refund but I sincerely hope that the IBJJF does make recompense to the athletes that missed out on competition either in their category or absolute. Mistakes happen but it shouldn’t be at the cost of paying athletes.

Although this competition has quickly become my Achilles heel that is not the main reason I keep entering. The main reasons I keep returning is because it is in Barcelona. Barcelona is still a fabulous city and there is nothing like being able to enjoy some sunshine, sightseeing, cakes, ice cream, tapas and wine after a long day grappling! It genuinely is a fabulous location to combine a competition but also a short break away so I’ll be honest despite the mess-up’s (both IBJJF and my own) its fair to say I think I’ll be back again!

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