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Thursday, 13 March 2014 09:07

Former Hatter will ‘tae’ hard at European championships

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Christiana Pillibeit connects to the head of a member of the Fire Dragon TKD team in Medicine Hat prior to flying back to England to take part in the Nottingham Open Feb 2. Christiana Pillibeit connects to the head of a member of the Fire Dragon TKD team in Medicine Hat prior to flying back to England to take part in the Nottingham Open Feb 2. Photo contributed

Former Medicine Hat resident Christiana Pillibeit is still kicking at taekwondo.


Pillibeit, who now lives in England, has been to some international competitions in the last year or so. Her most recent was a World TaeKwonDo (WTF) competition in February — the Nottingham Open — where she earned a silver in women’s (57-62 kg) A Class.
It is impressive when added to her other wins in world-class events (see below), but she now has the opportunity to compete in another prestigious competition, the TaeKwonDo International European Championships in Davos Switzerland March 29-30.
Pillibeit moved to Great Britain in 2012 after she married soldier Clifford Hunter who was stationed at the BATUS army site near Medicine Hat. Currently she is training with HED TKD, where her head instructor is Howard Douglas and coach Staff Sgt. Colin Sayer. She also trains with a private club Spitfire Taekwondo where her instructor and coach for Olympic-style taekwondo is Mark Hayward.
Like most other martial arts, there are big differences in styles between associations, and taekwondo is no exception. This tournament is hosted by Taekwondo International (TI), in association with the Taekwondo Association of Great Britain (TAGB), which is a non-Olympic style which broke away from the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) a number of years ago.
Pillibeit says there’s a difference amongst the different taekwondo forms.
“The TAGB style of taekwondo differs from ITF in the way a player generates power through the body: TAGB uses a twisting motion, typically generated from the hip while ITF styles generate power through an up and down motion called sine wave. If it’s confusing for you, it’s confusing for me too,” explains Pillibeit jokingly. “I practised the ITF style, under David and Renee Scotland (in Medicine Hat) who later sold their club to Jeff Sandford, for years and switching to a TAGB style has been difficult and I constantly need to be reminded to twist instead of sine.”
Pillibeit started the discipline when she was young and stuck with it until the age of 19. She stopped for years until she moved back to England and only initially wanted to get her black belt to have something to do while her husband was away with army duties. Her coaches saw something in her and the rest is history.
Pillibeit looks forward to competing because she likes the training and enjoys the fitness level she’s achieved.
“For me, a big part of training is coming back to training regularly. It’s easy to let training slide between competitions because they take a lot out of you mentally and physically,” explains Pillibeit. “Having an effective recovery and to recharge myself for the next competition has been a learning curve, but after each competition I have a better idea on what I need to do. I now give myself a couple days rest of no training and then force myself to get back into it so I don’t lose the level of fitness I’ve worked for.
“Fitness has probably been the biggest aspect of competitions I’ve been working on over the last four months. I’ve approached a personal trainer that’s been helping me develop strength and cardiovascular fitness. A two-minute round feels a lot longer when you’re competing than when you’re training in a club and having the fitness to complete four or five (or more) rounds is really important. Sometimes it’s the only edge a player has over another when they’re evenly matched in skill.”
She’s enjoyed a lot of success relatively quickly. For someone who not only never competed, but just picked up the sport again after years of inactivity in the discipline, Pillibeit has done well. Whether or not she wants to really push her limits and go for something as prestigious as the Olympics, she’s undecided.
“To be honest, I’m not sure. I never expected to be competing at any level when I started training again. However, if I had Olympic ambitions I’d have to switch to World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) training full-time and give any TAGB/ITF training up,” explains Pillibeit.  “I’m not sure if I’m ready to make that decision yet. While I’m not old by any stretch, I am already older than the average age of Olympic athletes in 2012 competing (which was 26). A lot of these players have also been on the circuit since they were teenagers, competing at various junior championships. Knowing this doesn’t put me off competing as I’m in it for the experience at this stage in the game. I’m always up for a challenge, seeing how far I can go.”
For her, it’s one step at a time and right now her focus is on the European Championships in Switzerland. She wants to see how well she does there and then can look at the upcoming world championships.
“I have no expectations for myself as far as outcome is concerned. There are too many variables to work out to expect I’ll come back with a result as good or better than the Worlds in July. It doesn’t sound very inspiring, but all I can do is fight smart and fight hard,” she says. “That doesn’t mean I’m not putting any pressure on myself, it’s just taken a different form. I’m working on a belt grading that takes place two weeks before the Euros. If I pass then I could theoretically move up a division to women’s red belt. I’m also trying to drop into a lighter weight category as well as keep up my fitness. It’s a lot to balance, but I have a good team of people helping me to keep focused.”
It should be an excellent experience for Pillibeit, regardless if she wins medals. It’s not often people are given the opportunity to travel to Switzerland, let alone compete at a world-class level in a sporting event.
She is relishing the opportunity.
“I’ve never been to Switzerland before. I think half the time I’m more excited about travelling to some place new than to actually compete in the European Championships,” explains Pillibeit. “Unfortunately it will be mostly business, as I’m travelling with the British Army ITF taekwondo team and we all have limited financial support to go. We’ll travel the day before the competition kicks off to weigh in and then the next two days will be competing (sparring the first day, patterns the second), and then fly back the Monday.”
Pillibeit’s accomplishments since leaving Medicine Hat:
• March 2013, Taekwondo Association of Great Britain (TAGB) English Championships — Women’s Green Belt Patterns, Gold; Women’s Green Belt, Light Heavy Weight Point Stop Sparring, Gold.
• May 2013, CIMAC (England) Open Kickboxing — Novice Point Stop Sparring, Bronze; Novice Continuous Sparring, Silver; May 2013, TAGB Welsh Championships — Women’s Green Belt Patterns, Gold; Women’s Green Belt Light Heavy Weight Point Stop Sparring, Gold.
• June 2013, Global Taekwondo International (GTI) English Championships — Women’s Blue Belt Patterns, First; Women’s Blue Belt Heavy Weight Continuous Sparring, First.
• July 2013, Taekwondo International World Championships — Women’s Blue Belt Patterns, Silver; Women’s Light Heavy Weight Continuous Sparring, Silver; Women’s Blue and Red Belt Tag Team Sparring, Bronze.
• Oct. 2013, CIMAC Dorking Open — Women’s Novice Continuous Sparring, Silver; Oct. 2013, TAGB South East Championships — Women’s Blue Belt Patterns, Gold; Women’s Blue Belt Light Heavy Weight Continuous Sparring, Gold.
• Nov. 2013, GTI British Championships — Women’s Blue Belt Patterns, First; Women’s Blue, Red, Black Belt Heavy Weight Point Stop Sparring, First; Women’s Blue, Red, Black Belt Heavy Weight Continuous Sparring, First; Nov. 2013, WTF Taekwondo British Masters — Women’s, 62-67 kg, B Class, Gold; Nov. 2013, TAGB British Championships — Women’s Blue Belt Light Heavy Weight Continuous Sparring, Gold; Women’s Blue and Red Tag Team Sparring, Bronze.
• Feb. 2014, WTF Taekwondo Nottingham Open — Women’s, 57-62 kg, A Class, Silver.

Read 4841 times Last modified on Thursday, 13 March 2014 09:10
Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor