Former world champion James Southwood went into the recent 2019 European Savate Championships in good form.
He credits good training, and while his recent 40th birthday placed him among the older competitors, he retains excellent fitness to complement his experience.
Savate is a martial art well known and widely practiced in France, perhaps less known in Great Britain. Elegant and exciting to watch, it uses boxing alongside kicking techniques.
"I knew I had the experience, the tools, and the form, but one can never anticipate what is going to happen," he said.
"I maintained good focus throughout, keeping unwavering eye contact with my early opponents (Germany, Italy, and Russia).
"The litmus test would come, however, against my opposite number on the French team, Loïc Gouget."
Meeting Gouget again
Gouget had been European Champion three times and beaten Southwood twice (Southwood has won one of their bouts). The two met again in the final.
"I kept my focus," Southwood told Great Vegan Athletes, "but after a fast pace and a few early knocks, my will to win slipped a little. I could not find the push in the second half of the fight. Consequently, the five judges scored it a slim 3-2 against me, reflecting just how close it was."
This makes him Vice-Champion of Europe for the third time, having won in 2007 and 2015. He seems to reflect on this philosophically.
"Medals are externals. On controllable internal factors, I am pleased to have been so focused, better than ever. I did not quite control my motivation for the final few minutes of the tournament, which is disappointing, but fixable."
Southwood has been vegetarian all his life. He became vegan to avoid harming animals as a teenager, meaning he had been vegan for more than half of his life. He has scooped all his major Savate honors on a plant-based diet.
An enthusiastic and successful coach, he is aware that his competitive career has been long.
"2020 will be a World Championships year, and I will decide what I am doing for that very soon," he said.