Chichester’s Euro fencing event is a winner

Tara Sallaba, 17, from Chichester, left, in action at the European tournament / Picture by Kate Shemilt
Tara Sallaba, 17, from Chichester, left, in action at the European tournament / Picture by Kate Shemilt

The British round of the European Fencing Confederation’s new under-14 circuit saw top young fencers and their coaches and families flock to the University of Chichester.

It is part of the EFC’s commitment to creating a youth circuit as a launchpad for the tougher cadet under-17 and junior under-20 circuits. All the British fencing community helped make this happen with other competitions cancelled or moved to ensure it could go ahead on the date specified by the EFC.

Watching were an enthusiatic bunch of parents, coaches and other children and it is hoped to develop greater local school participation in the coming years.

This is the only European six-weapon (that’s male and female epee, foil and sabre at the same time) event in Great Britain.

It allows young fencers here to fight overseas fencers under full international formats without the need to travel abroad. It is vital as many British youngsters as possible are given the opportunity to experience fencing with other nations.

There were 144 competitors from Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Great Britain, Hungary, Romania and the United States and the GB-licenced fencers included children of different nationalities who live here.

Tournament champions were: Mens Foil - Rafael Rhys Pollitt (GBR); Ladies Foil - Maia Weintraub (USA); Mens Epee - Ethan Kew (GBR); Ladies Epee - Maria-Cristina Constantinescu (ROU); Men’s Sabre - Stefan Nankinski (BUL); Ladies sabre - Ellen Robbins Wilkinson (GBR).

Watching were an enthusiatic bunch of parents, coaches and other children and it is hoped to develop greater local school participation in the coming years.

The university’s new Sports Dome is a wonderful venue and i’s size makes it perfect for fencing - much larger events could be held here in the future.

Organisers had Hilary Philbin (BF President), Georgina Usher (BF CEO) and Clare Halsted (chairwoman of the BF International Cadet Management Group) visiting to see the venue and how the event was working.

The organising team said the university had been incredibly helpful, offering the kind of facilities on-site that would be unavailable elsewhere, and the intention is to continue with this venue for the annual Valerie Degorce tournament while bearing it in mind for other large events.

The weekend had the support of Chichester District Council, in particular the community team who offered assitance with marketing, hospitality and schools communication. Oakwood School offered to help with transport facilities.

Organisers thanked Patrick Degorce, his sons and Valerie Degorce’s family for their invaluable support and their trust in allowing us to hold this tournament in her name.

Fencing is a very popular Olympic sport despite having a fairly low profile and there are many clubs around the Observer area.

One of the best known is Chichester Fencing Club, run by Sharon Blackman, which is always happy to welcome more who wish to try the sport - see www.chichester-fencing-club.org - or go to www.britishfencing.com/clubs/find-a-club

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