Colin Judge: Blog 3

06 March 2015

Colin Judge: Blog 3

Latest blog from National Para Champion 2015 and 'Road to Rio' hopeful Colin Judge...


Hi everyone! I have a lot to talk about this week! My third blog will be predominantly focussed around my training over the last few months, the Irish National Championships and my upcoming international competitions. 

The last few months have been very hectic for me but I have a lot of positives to take out of them. When I came home from France at the end of October(edit: Colin had a huge win at the French Open beating then World Ranked No.1 and several top 10 opponents), I realised that I could compete with the best in the world and that I would have a real chance in 2015 if I trained hard. So I practiced every day possible in November and December and made some small changes to my training. I have started playing with Vladislavs Agurjanovs, one of the best able-bodied players in Ireland and a player who has represented Latvia at 8 European Championships and 3 World Championships. Vlad coaches me 1:1 on Mondays and Wednesdays now and I feel that he has brought my game on a huge amount since my last international event. We are on a twelve week programme at the moment and we have made out a plan with a number of different exercises on it suited to the wheelchair game. One thing that I learned last year is that table tennis in class 2 is very different to the able-bodied game so Vlad and I practice a lot more of the short game in training sessions now because it was an area where a few of the top players caught me out last year. So we are working on every aspect of my game now and I am hugely optimistic about the next three months training with Vladislavs!

These 1:1 training sessions are on top of what I was doing already so I still train in Dundrum Table Tennis Club on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, in UCD on Tuesdays and Thursdays and in Irish Wheelchair Association or Blackrock College on weekends. I play with a variety of different players over the week and I think this is very important because as I've said before, I believe that there is something to be learnt from everyone. Playing against all these different styles can only help me with whatever I come up against when I'm abroad. There are some very unique styles on the Para scene so it's essential that I'm prepared for every eventuality. 

I continued with this schedule pretty much all the way through the Christmas holidays and into the New Year. I have been really happy with my training the last few months and am always trying to find weaknesses in my game and improve upon them. In 2015 I decided that I wasn't playing enough competitive matches so I played a number of league matches and entered my name for some competitions, including the Irish National Championships. Playing a match in training is very different from playing a match in a competition so I realised that I needed more competitive experience. I will have to learn to play my best when there is big pressure on me and when there is a big crowd watching. The Irish National Championships would be a good test of that!

The competition was last weekend, the 28th of February to the 1st of March. I went to a wheelchair training camp the weekend before at Irish Wheelchair Association and felt that I played well on both days. I then trained four of the five days during the week before the event but at one of my sessions I broke my prosthetic right arm! Not good timing at all before the biggest competition of the year. I practiced on Friday, the night before the competition, with my broken arm because I realised that it wasn't possible to get a new one before the weekend. My balance was affected when the ball was moved from my forehand to backhand or backhand to forehand but I was able to play ok apart from that. I hoped that my opponents wouldn't move me around too much! 

I played in the able-bodied U21s on Saturday which was good practice for me ahead of my main event on Sunday. The Men's Wheelchair Singles event was the first ever competition I'd played in where I was expected to win. I felt a little bit nervous on Sunday morning and worried about whether my arm would affect my performance or not. I managed to get out of my group and through the knockout stages into the final. I was relieved to have gotten that far by lunch time because it hadn't been an easy road for me. I composed myself and thought about how I was going to play my opponent and teammate, John Finn. John had beaten me previously so I knew that it was going be a tough match. I played well in the first two sets, winning them both 11-8 and 11-9. In the timeout between the second and third set, John was well coached and was told to mix things up a bit. He was told to move the ball from my forehand to my backhand and my backhand to my forehand so I was waiting for my arm to break into two pieces! Thankfully my arm remained intact but I lost the third set 11-9. So I decided that I would mix things up myself in the fourth set! I decided to serve a bit shorter to John, moving him forward and then try catch him in his forehand. My strategy worked and I won the fourth set 11-6 which meant that I was Irish National Champion for the second year in a row! I was really happy that I'd managed to win when the pressure was on and when a few things went against me. I will play lots of different competitions this year and I am very well aware that there may be times where I'm not in the right frame of mind or I'm not happy with something but I have to learn to win under any circumstance! 

I played the Wheelchair Doubles event next with my friend and teammate, Greg Keogh. We got through the knockout stages and into the final where we faced another two of my teammates, Christine Doyle and Rena McCarron Rooney. We lost the match in the fifth set 13-11 after going two sets down and coming back to 2-2. Unfortunately the girls edged us in the fifth and final set so I would like to congratulate them on a great performance and on winning the National Wheelchair Doubles title! Greg and I will look to take it off them next year when we have practiced more doubles together! 

So that pretty much brings you all up to date! I am writing this blog the week after the Irish National Championships and the week before I go away to my first international competition of the year, The Hungarian Open. I will then go straight to my second international event this year, the Lignano Masters Open in Italy. I have looked at the entry lists for these competitions and pretty much all the top players are going in my class and this is great news because I have to beat them some time! I am happy with how I have trained this week (with my new arm) and I am feeling confident about the next few weeks. 
The next time I will talk about how I got on at my first two international competitions of the year and my plans for the next few months ahead of the Bayreuth Open in Germany in May.  If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment at the end of the page and I will respond to your questions on my next blog.

Thank you very much for reading and for all the support.

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