TONBRIDGE TAEKWON-DO had four juniors selected to represent England at the European ITF Taekwondo Championships in Sofia.
In total, 591 competitors from 29 countries descended on the Bulgarian capital for both senior and junior events.
For Pete Rickards, Katie Moon, George Rowe and Isobel Eason-Warner it was their first international championships at this level and their first time competing as part of the national squad.
The journey started with a 2.30am call and an early flight to Sofia, where they were picked up and taken to a hotel full of very colourful characters.
After an opening ceremony, the juniors were up first in the individual patterns section.
Pete Rickards beat an Armenian opponent but lost in the next round to a competitor from Finland.
George Rowe performed really well and won two rounds against a Norwegian and a Scot before being beaten by an opponent from Spain.
Isobel Eason-Warner was beaten by a competitor from Finland so she didn’t progress in patterns.
But in the special technique division Isobel cleared one out of three techniques, while Pete managed one out of five.
Next day Katie and Isobel were in team patterns along with three other England squad members.
The girls had had just three days together before the Championships to work out and practice the complicated splits for all 12 patterns.
They had chosen Ge Baek as their optional pattern and started first against Scotland. They nailed the pattern and won 3-2. The designated pattern was Choong Moo and they performed well but Scotland had some more complicated splits, made no errors and took the round. They went on to win gold against Norway.
Then came the individual sparring and Pete had an excellent first match against a competitor from Ireland, winning with downward kicks flying.
He was then beaten in the dying seconds by a Slovenian in the next round.
Isobel drew a girl from Ukraine in the first round and beat her comfortably, then came up against a tough Russian who she beat with time to spare.
Her next opponent was a very good Norwegian. She fought hard in a very tactical match and was ahead at one stage but unfortunately just lost out.
But she did win a bronze medal, a very impressive effort in her first international at the age of 14. The Norwegian went on the win the gold.
Katie was taking on a Russian and went ahead at one stage but she took a big kick and was badly winded. She carried on and nearly made up the points but ran out of time and lost 2-1.
In junior power, the next day Katie and Isobel were first up in a group of 29, they both broke the knife hand and turning kick but not the side kick.
After the first round eight girls had broken all three and pressed on, and unfortunately they ended up just missing out in joint ninth place.
Later on the third day the England girls were up first again and Isobel missed the side kick and Katie broke the turning kick; four teams broke all three boards and the girls finished sixth out of ten.
Neither George nor Pete could break their boards and the team finished fifth out of ten.
The competitors were treated to a gala performance on Saturday night with traditional Bulgarian dance and performances.
On the last day the girls sparring teams was made up of five members of the girls’ squad taking on Poland. Isobel fought well against her opponent but lost points to succumb 3-0.
Last up was Katie, who started strongly and was ahead but then lost 2-1 in the last seconds. This meant that the England team lost on points to a strong Polish outfit, who went on the win the gold.
The boys were up against a big Russian team who, after a few technical issues and a checking of the rules, just won in the last match.
Pete was up against a huge opponent but he forced a draw and scored some valuable points.