My first fencing experience in Paris
By Olivia White
I was sitting at St Pancras station with a thousand butterflies starting to make me nauseous. I was not sure if it was excitement or fear but I was on route to my first international fencing competition to travel by Eurostar to the Paris Mini Marathon Fleuret 2022. Kids from all over the world attended this competition in Paris - one of the largest youth competitions in the world!
With some luck (due to the strike) mum and I made it to Gare du Nord just a little behind schedule and we dragged my massive fencing bag down to the metro and off to the competition venue. It was the night before the competition but all my kit had to be inspected by officials, emblazoned with the Union Jack and stamped as ready for the competition tomorrow. After quickly dropping our bags at the hotel we head off to meet the rest of the team for a pre-competition dinner.
The next day I was rudely awoken at 6am by the horrendous alarm on my phone – I’m not a morning person. After hitting snooze for 30 minutes I dragged myself out of bed and immediately the thousand butterflies were back but I cram them down with some breakfast and before making the short trip back to the venue.
It seemed different the morning of the competition, more imposing… And the noise, wow, there were hundreds and hundreds of people: competitors, coaches, referees, organisers, parents and friends all looking nervous and trying to find where they needed to be. There were flags from all over the world: France, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Brazil, US, Australia … Australia?! Did someone really come all the way from Australia?
Before I had really taken this all in I was told to ‘kit up’ … socks, breeches, plastron, chest protector, jacket, lame, wire, glove and mask … I felt like a soldier going in to battle. My coach suddenly appeared shouting, “Piste 24, Piste 24”, and off we went to face my first opponent. But wait, this girl was HUGE, was this really the right piste for the Under12? How could she be 12? She was taller than my Dad! GULP! Suddenly the voice of my first coach came into my head, “Size isn’t everything Olivia, you’re small, yes, but that makes you a small target too, use it to your advantage.”
Point after point, I moved up the ranks and ended up in quarter finals where a solid fencer from Latvia finally took me out of the competition. I was exhausted, completely soaked and red as a tomato but incredibly proud of my performance and the opportunity I have been given to fence high quality fencers from all over the world. I highly recommend to my fellow youth fencers to step out of their comfort zone and make the jump first to local competitions and then to international competitions. This experience was so much fun, very rewarding and truly opened my eyes to the global community of fencers!