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Athletes at ZFW Fencing Club in North London are determined to fight their way through the coronavirus pandemic.

Left: Olivia White is undaunted in her stretches

Right: Matthew Abrahams and his living room lunge

With club operations currently suspended, ZFW founder and head coach Ziemek Wojciechowski is encouraging his fencers to train at home with a series of motivational and instructional WhatsApp videos for club members.

“We were convinced that suspending ZFW was the only sensible solution to the rapidly changing epidemic,” Wojciechowski wrote to members before the government restricted social and sporting activities. Club operations are under constant review.

But the global health emergency hasn’t scuppered the aspirations of ZFW’s fencing community. Wojciechowski’s up-and-coming athletes are determined to remain in top form for when competitions resume.

Olivia White, who joined ZFW at the age of 5, making her among the club’s youngest members at the time, is using the competitive pause to review her past performance and improve her skills. The nine-year-old North London student says she looks at footwork and stretching as a way of breaking up schoolwork and distance learning.

Senior fencer and university student Dominic de Almeida has been inventive, evolving a small outdoor space into a workout zone and loading his heaviest university texts into two backpacks. Hung either end of a broom, he says they make the perfect barbell.

Many of ZFW’s high-performance athletes represent Great Britain internationally at the cadet (under 17), junior (under 20) and senior levels. British Fencing, the sport’s governing body, has put domestic competition on hold, with decisions on when to resume guided by government advice. International events have been cancelled and debate swirls about the viability of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

ZFW Junior Matthew Abrahams is keeping limber with footwork in his front hall and lunges in the kitchen. The former Highgate School pupil qualified to represent Great Britain at the Junior World Championships in Salt Lake City, Utah, in April, along with clubmates Cameron Evans and Yasmin Campbell. Those championships have been delayed with no new date set.

Amelie Tsang qualified for the World Championships in the Cadet grouping along with clubmate Carolina Stutchbury. Tsang is doing lunges in her lounge, to the bemusement of her family. Stutchbury is taking aim at a boxing dummy clad as a fencing opponent. Posting photos on the club’s social media streams, others are sparring with siblings or leaping in the living room.

Non-fencers are joining in the moves, including many of the athletes’ parents. Others, such as Sophie Abrahams, a former student at Channing School in Highgate, is keeping her British Fencing refereeing skills sharp by reviewing fast fights and difficult-to-determine decisions through online video channels.

“Keep practicing,” Wojciechowski urges his athletes by video, inviting them to remember their one-to-one lessons and to recreate scenarios in their homes. The replies from club members: “wonderfully uplifting, inspiring and encouraging”, “perfect exercise for a Saturday morning”, and to Wojciechowski, a 10-time Olympian as both fencer and coach, “your love of fencing is truly inspiring” and “missing your positive vibe, stay safe and fence safe”.

Left: Head coach Ziemek Wojciechowski encouraging athletes online.

Right: Dominic de Almeida puts his university books and bags to good use

Attached Photos:

1Olivia White is undaunted in her stretches.

2—Dominic de Almeida puts his university books and bags to good use.

3—Matthew Abrahams and his living room lunge.

4—Head coach Ziemek Wojciechowski encouraging athletes online.

PHOTO CREDITS for all: ZFW Fencing Club

ZFW is run by Olympic Coach Ziemek Wojciechowski with a team of dedicated experts. The club aims to boost the standard of fencing in Britain by providing a centre of excellence for elite fencers training for Olympic, international and national teams. It also provides a learning programme with an emphasis on youngsters. ZFW operates from various venues in North London and elsewhere around the capital. For further details, please visit


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