Final thank you

A final thank you to everyone who helped us with our Olympic Challenge. The last few donations took our grand fundraising total to £1,130, which is fantastic and will greatly help CAMFED in its mission to help girls in Africa receive their education. We would also like to say a big thank you to the CAMFED team for their help and support throughout our Challenge, which was greatly appreciated.

So onto the next big Challenge. We’ll have to think of something major to top this one!!

Sam & Corné 🙂

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End of the Challenge – Closing ceremony and final tallies

And so the end of an era – for us at least – has arrived. With the Closing Ceremony of the inspirational Paralympics on Sunday 9th September came the end of our Isis Olympic Challenge (ok, so we snuck hockey in just afterwards) and five months of sports competitions. So how did we do?!

For the Challenge, we managed to compete against each other in 22 of the 26 Olympic Sports, sadly not managing to arrange gymnastics, sailing, weightlifting or wrestling, but fighting for one-upmanship in a huge range of sports from those requiring accuracy under pressure such as archery and shooting, sports relying on another’s joint efforts such as the team sports volleyball, football and basketball and relying on your horse in dressage, martial arts requiring strength and cunning like judo, fencing, boxing and taekwondo, ball sports needing hand-eye coordination like tennis, hockey and table-tennis, and sports requiring power, strength and/or endurance such as triathlon, canoeing, rowing, and athletics. We can honestly say we enjoyed almost every single minute of every single sport (Sam has to draw the line here at the 10k, which she is never running again!), and we rediscovered just how much time and effort has to be put into becoming proficient at any one sport (hats off to all Olympic and Paralympic athletes).

Most of all during this Challenge, we were constantly amazed by the generosity of the people who were up for helping us. Those who offered to coach and umpire us gave up huge amounts of time and energy, and passed on volumes of knowledge and the enthusiasm they have for their sport, as did everyone who joined us in the team sports, playing for Team Sam or Team Corné’s victory. All of our coaches really inspired us, and we now have the difficult task of working out which sports to keep up when we enjoyed so many. Both of us will continue judo, which is a fantastic mental and physical workout at an unbelievably friendly club (Oxford Judo Club for anyone who wants to take it up!). Corné wants to continue triathlons next summer and still plays volleyball and football, while Sam is considering taking up rowing and/or handball as she enjoyed and was good at both of these new (to her) sports. If anyone in the Oxfordshire area is wanting to try a new sport, you would do well to head to our ‘thank you’ page where you can find the websites for all the generous people and clubs who helped us out with our sports, and you will be welcomed by all of these friendly and knowledgable people – so do it! Find a new sport and meet new, interesting and fun people!

In addition to everyone’s generosity of time, knowledge and enthusiasm/interest/motivation, many, many people were also extremely generous in sponsoring our efforts  – and at the end of the day, raising money for CAMFED was the aim of our Challenge. To date we have raised £1,090, which is beyond our original £1,000 target so we are delighted! Thank you to everyone who has sponsored us – and if you meant to but haven’t got round to it yet, you can still add your donation on our virginmoneygiving page (thanks!).

So, with the end of the Challenge, Corné gets the bragging rights with a 12-10 victory over wife Sam – but obviously we need a Closing Ceremony of our own to fully finish off the Challenge! We would like to invite everyone who helped us with our Challenge to a braai (bbq) at ours on Saturday 13th October 2012 – what more South African way to celebrate?! Sadly, being in the UK you’ll need to bring some warm clothes, but come rain or shine we’ll be outdoors braai-ing so come and join us; just drop Sam an email to let her know you can make it 🙂 We really hope you can all come, and look forward to celebrating Corné’s victory with you all. For those wanting to keep tabs on any of our future exploits, our main fundraising blog is: www.isisgivinggroup.wordpress.com (you can also join our Facebook group).

Thanks once again for all your support, and we hope we kept you entertained over the summer of sports!

Sam and Corné x

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CAMFED update: 820 children helped to attend school

This morning I received the following message from CAMFED, the charity we’re fundraising for – thanks everyone for helping us raise so much money for them, and this is what it’s for and why we’ve done this Challenge:

This year, 820 children will walk into their first day of class with the great comfort of knowing that nothing will come between them and their education — not a book, not a uniform, not a slow week at the market that forced their parents to choose between food and school fees.

Thanks to the generosity of donors like you, Camfed will be able to provide hundreds more children with the essential items that enable them to go to school — and stay there.

On behalf of all of us at Camfed, I want to thank you for opening the door to so many more children by giving them decent shoes to walk the long road to school, or new uniforms that prevent them from dropping out of school, ashamed by their torn clothing. You have given them the books that will stop them from struggling to keep up in class for want of an exercise book, and you have provided school fees to ensure they can learn without fear that the money to keep them there will dry up.

Thank you for giving them that sense of security.

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Hit and miss at our hockey challenge

Lining up again on Thursday with our loaned hockey sticks and OU blues vice-captain Alex Stobbart, our coach, we carried on from where we left off the night before in our second session of hockey training.

A rainbow of cones marked our path as we learned three ways to get around a defender, first learning to drift the ball to our left before a quick flick of the ball to our right allowed us to run around the defence. I’m not sure how many defenders we would have been fooling as we weren’t very quick, but we got the theory at least! The second tactic was similar but involved a dummy pass of our stick to the left, pulling the defender’s eye away from the ball before we would again quickly move round them on the right (which is your strong side in hockey, and the defender’s weaker left side). The final tactic was the most difficult. Here we had to scoop the ball over the imaginary defender’s stick before carrying on dribbling. Not surprisingly, scooping a ball with a hockey stick is not the easiest thing to do, particularly not when you want to keep control of the ball, and this was a very difficult trick to master. Corné picked it up first and was soon running up and down the course of defender cones; Sam had to exercise a great deal more persistance but eventually nailed the technique and could complete the course.

Corné, coach Alex Stobbart, and Sam complete the Hockey Challenge

Armed with the sneaky tactics, Alex moved us on to attacking and defending, using a cone funnel to mark off a zone and avoid the cheat of just running miles, and showing us how to correctly defend (a jabbing technique so that you put pressure on the attacker but don’t over-commit yourself, before a final lunge to steal the ball) and then set us up against each other to practise, which was quite challenging as we knew the tactics in theory but putting them into practice at speed proved tricky! Eventually we were up-to-scratch enough to pass muster.

Skill set achieved (some more than others), it was time for our Challenge contest! Despite Alex’s kind offer (!) we didn’t think we were of the right skill level to pitch our new-found talents against the Oxford Blues mens team, so Alex had come up with a set of skill challenges to ascertain our gold medalist.

First up was passing. Corné and I faced off a few metres from each other, with a cone ‘gate’ between us that we had to pass to the other through. Once we had both passed correctly through the gate we each took a step back – first to miss the gate three times at one distance would lose. We actually started off very well, neatly pushing the ball back and forwards with surprising accuracy! In fact, we ended up about half the pitch apart before we had a couple of misses, so Alex decided to make it more difficult and forced us to use the more difficult ‘slap’ rather than the easier ‘push’ to pass the ball. This soon sorted the wheat (neither of us) from the chaff (both of us) with errors on both sides, but Corné was the first to slip up three times in a row, and the first point went to Sam (to her polite and demure delight as always).

Our next skill test was shooting, with a cone course to dribble before entering the ‘D’ and taking a shot. We could choose to go left or right for our shot; all shots counted but those going through the cone ‘gates’ marking an excellent shot into the corners of the goal would count higher in the event of a tie. Sam started and both of us got our first goals in, but the pressure was soon on Sam as she missed and Corné took the lead – only for him to throw it away again as he went for super-power (claiming it was fun) rather than accuracy and kept missing while Sam went for less power but getting them in the goal as that was the point of the test! So Sam took the challenge point for a 2-0 lead.

Up next was attacking vs defending, with 2 points up for grabs, one for each skill, slightly more subjectively decided by Alex, but who we deemed was a fair umpire. As we had found in the practice, this was quite a tricky drill for us as neither of us was a fast enough attacker to fool the defence – but then we weren’t particularly fast in defence either so it kind of balanced out! After five goes each at attacking (and so five at defending too), Corné picked up his first point of the Challenge by being judged the best defender… but lost the Hockey Challenge as Alex gave the attacking point to Sam (partly due to Corné losing control of the ball a couple of times and completely exiting the cone funnel chasing his escaped ball while attacking!). With five skills being put to the test, Sam had snaffled a sure victory at 3-1 with one point still to play for.

The final skill challenge was the penalty shoot-out and as it was completely new to us Alex and we were up for doing it despite the fact that Sam had already won the Challenge. Alex impressed us yet again with his skills, this time accurately firing the ball into the corners of the goal, and after a few practices it was our turn to face a penalty shoot-out. The vast majority of our challenges have been closely-run between Corné and me, and hockey proved to follow this theme as we matched goal after goal, although not quite as accurately as Alex had (again, getting in the goal was the aim, but a shot to the corners trumped a normal shot). By our pre-arranged five shots, we were neck-and-neck, and so we moved on to sudden death! Another goal each were scored, and so Sam stepped up for her second goal… and scored. The pressure was on Corné and he performed magnificently – shooting a fantastic goal into the bonus area of the right hand corner, and taking the final point of our challenge to regain his dignity by only losing 3-2 to Sam in the Hockey.

A massive thank you to Alex Stobbart for his fantastic coaching, particularly generously given as he had had four hours of his own hockey training on both days and then stayed on to coach us afterwards. We thoroughly enjoyed learning hockey, and this was definitely down to Alex’s enthusiasm, encouragement, and excellent coaching. A big thank you also to his club, Oxford University Hockey Club, for the generous loan of pitch, sticks and balls. Victory in the hockey, our final match, has given Sam a valuable gold medal, clawing back Corné’s lead to a final Challenge score of 12-10 to Corné.

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Hockey training begins

Last night our hockey training started at Iffley Centre’s astroturf, where Oxford University’s Hockey Blues vice-captain, Alex Stobbart, had generously offered to coach us for our Challenge.

Neither of us has ever played hockey, so Alex kindly started us right from the basics of how to hold the stick correctly (left hand at the top, right hand surprisingly low down the stick) and the correct posture of bending your knees rather than your back so that you can still see around you (rather than just being able to see the floor!). This proved quite tricky at our height (always a good excuse), and Sam in particular had to keep being corrected on her posture (I have the same bending back rather than knees issue in judo!).

Alex showed us how to try to keep the ball at 2 o’clock compared to your body, and at arm’s reach, rather than right next to your feet, and then deftly dribbled the ball around a cone course that forced us to switch left to right continually to practice feeding the ball from one side to the other. Alex made it look easy – it wasn’t!! It was in fact, unsurprisingly, rather difficult to keep bent at the knees while keeping the ball under control while cornering! After a bit of practice though apparently we weren’t doing too badly, which was encouraging.

Next was the Indian dribble, where you pass the ball quickly in a straight line across in front of you from right to left and back again repeatedly… or rather, you do so quickly if you’re Alex; Corné and I were rather a lot slower and stumblier! In hockey it is a foul to touch the ball with your feet, and also to use the back of your hockey stick so you have to rotate the stick when the ball goes to your left side to keep the flat side against the ball (or move your feet around the ball to keep the ball on your right); this is quite tricky and took some practising.

Alex then moved on to teaching us to pass. There are three passes in hockey, the push, the slap, and the hit. We started with the push which, as the name suggests, is where you keep your stick in contact with the ball and then (left leg facing forward where you want the ball to go while right leg stays perpendicular) push the ball forward to your partner – and you can get a surprising amount of pace on the ball so this was quite fun! As we were pushing to each other, we also learned how you ‘catch’ the ball, putting your stick behind and cushioning the ball as you take it so that it doesn’t bounce off your stick.

The three types of hockey pass – the push, the slap, and the hit

The slap was next and involves hitting the ball with a bit of welly with your body and stick very low to the ground, and swinging a bit like a golf swing (but without putting your stick above the height of your shoulder as this is a dangerous foul). This was much trickier than the push but we eventually got the gist and moved onto the hit which, again as the name suggests, is a pass with much more power, where your body and stick position are higher than for the slap. Again, this was quite a tricky shot to get to grips with as you need to not ‘top’ the ball – or dig a divot in the astroturf! So hitting the ball cleanly takes a lot of practice; we were a bit hit and miss!

Finally as our first hour of hockey drew to a close we got to try some shooting. Alex lined up a mini dribbling course of three cones, and then we picked to go right or left and dribble into the D (as you can only shoot from within the ‘D’) and shoot. This was great fun – although Alex was clearly a lot more proficient at it than us!! Still, by this point we were managing to dribble ok most of the time, and we were getting the majority of our shots in the goal. Alex, who was a lovely and encouraging coach, stated that we had improved really well and were actually doing very decently for just one hour into our hockey careers, which was fab to hear.

So our second coaching session, and then our skills test ‘match’ is tonight, and we’re looking forward to it as we really enjoyed our first hockey training session. A massive thank you to Alex for taking the time to coach us complete beginners and for being so patient and enthusiastic, and to Oxford University Hockey Club for helping us with our challenge. They’re just starting their season and have six teams in the club (men’s, women’s and mixed) so if you’re a student and want to play then now’s a good time to join!

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Aquatics and Modern Pentathlon finale

Sunday saw us lining up at the pool for a tale of two medals as the aquatics medal would also decide the outcome of the modern pentathlon where we were currently 2-2 after fencing (Sam), running (Corné), shooting (Corné), and equestrianism (Sam). Sadly the aquatics itself was a bit anti-climatic as we already knew who was going to win as Sam used to be her school swimming captain. During all our training for the triathlon, however, Corné had much improved his swimming capabilities, so the race was closer than it would have been, but Sam still scooped the gold after a challenge race of backcrawl, breaststroke and a final length of front crawl to fully test all our stroke abilities (ok so we chickened out of the full IM and butterfly, but the aim was not to see us drowning!). Gold in the swimming does much to help Sam in her sports revival, giving her two valuable gold medals for the overall challenge, and taking her to just 12-9 behind Corné.

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Ping, pong for the table tennis match

Table tennis is not a sport either of us is great at as it’s a bit small and contained for our level of accuracy! Still, on Friday we borrowed the Iffley Centre table and gave it a go.

We followed the rules we had found on a table tennis website, so each person served two points in a row and then the server switched. We played first-to-11-wins for each game. Sam served first but Corné’s strong returns quickly built up a 3-0 lead before Sam started to get her eye in and fight back, drawing level again at 4-4. Tit-for-tat points followed until a big shot by Corné saw him taking a 6-5 and then 7-5 lead. However, a great return straight down the line from Sam saw her once again pulling back to 7-7. Corné pulled ahead once again to a 9-7 lead, before Sam somehow pulled back and then took her first lead at the crucial point of the game, forcing a 9-11 win to Sam for the first game.

Game 2 saw Corné’s concentration slightly desert him as he started the game by serving two serves straight into the net, giving Sam a 0-2 lead. He finally got a point to take him to 1-3 but served in the net again to give 1-4 to Sam. Sam made her own serve error to let Corné creep back into the match at 3-4, but then it all went downhill for Corné as the score got to 3-5, 4-5, and then Sam got a huge run of points as Corné got more and more frustrated. 4-6, 4-7, 4-8, 4-9, 4-10… and Sam had an easy match point, serving to win the game as Corné had walked off in disgust.

So we drew the table tennis line there, with Sam taking the gold medal 2 games to 0, bringing her a bit of dignity as she claws back to a 7-12 loss overall for the Challenge (not nearly as bad as when it was 4-12!!).

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