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Written by Abby Deveney:

Yasmin Campbell is making up for lost time.

With fencing competitions stalled for more than a year by Covid-19, she was given the chance to compete in Madrid for Great Britain at a European zonal qualifying competition that was a final pathway to this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. Only the winner in Madrid went on to the Games. Yasmin finished sixth.

Yasmin Campbell on the attack (Photo: Pavia, Bizzi Team, via Eurofencing on Instagram)

Nevertheless, she welcomed the April competition as an opportunity to gain senior experience at the highest level. Yasmin says she was selected for Madrid based on her standing in the 2019-2020 season. A British Fencing document outlines that detailed process.

Many senior women from other nations had fenced in Doha, Qatar, in late March, when the FIE restarted international tournaments, driven on by the summer Games. Although she’d been preparing for the Doha competition since its announcement, Yasmin decided against attending when Qatar was added that same month to the UK’s Red List for travel, a move that seriously complicated logistics.

“I was pleased I was selected (for Madrid), but also knew this would be my first competition in 14 months and the other women’s foilist had either competed domestically or done Doha,” she said. The pandemic robbed Yasmin, who is now aged 20, and ZFW’s other aspiring young fencers of opportunities to gain international experience in their last year as a junior fencer (U20) and first year as a senior.

“I recognised that we had already lost a year, which I would have used to get experience before the qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympics,” Yasmin said. And Paris is her goal. So the North London fencer worked with her sports psychologist on the mental preparations for Madrid, which became her near-term target.

“On competition day, I was very nervous,” she said. “I could not sleep the night before. I remember waking up and my palms were sweaty and shaking. I tried to eat a big breakfast, as I always do before a competition as I know I won’t be able to eat throughout the day, but due to nerves I was struggling.”

Maestro Wojciechowski’s decades of elite-level competition and coaching experience helped her through this. “When I was having my warm up lesson with Ziemek, he said the best thing to do is to get you a little tired so you feel less nervous. I do think it worked as the nerves drastically decreased before my first poule match,” she said.

Nineteen women from European nations competed in Madrid on April 25. In the poules, Yasmin claimed three victories and two defeats and was seeded eighth after that preliminary round. In the last 16, Yasmin defeated Laeticia Jorgensen of Denmark 15-3 , but in the quarter-finals lost to Nicole Pustilnik of Israel 15-11. The competition was won by Martyna Jelinska of Poland, who has now qualified for the Tokyo Olympics.

“I am slightly disappointed with my fencing in Madrid. While it was not bad, it was not great either,” said Yasmin. “I do believe that I was capable of performing better and potentially qualifying.”

Yasmin joined ZFW Fencing Club in October 2019 and says she’s grateful for Ziemek’s knowledge and passion and ability to impart the best technical training. She says she feels the support of the entire “ZFW family”. Yasmin, who began fencing at the age of eight, notes that other coaches in her past have “taught me a little about myself and shaped me into the fencer I am today, without each of them I would not be where I am today.”

When international senior competitions return to some kind of normality, hopefully later this year, Yasmin intends to make a name for herself on piste. Once she’s finished a university degree, she’ll train full time in the run-up to Paris. The focus is “to start making results that I feel reflect my capabilities and to start putting myself in a good position to ensure I can be selected for the 2024 Olympics.”

The clock is ticking.


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