THE Westbourne House School sports hall was a wonderful venue for Chichester Fencing Club’s biggest-ever competition.
A staggering total of 120 children aged from five to 17 took part from schools all over the area.
All were fantastically well-behaved, sporting and polite, as befits a sport where manners and etiquette are so important.
The day started with the eldest fencers, the 17-and-under sabreurs and epeeists.
In the epee competition, CFC and Bognor Arena’s Robin Elliott was unstoppable, in line with his standing as south-east epee champion, to take another title to add to his growing collection.
CFC, Arena and Bishop Luffa fencer Charlotte Beadle was on excellent form to take silver, giving Elliott a hard run to the gold. Archie Evans (CFC, Arena, Bishop Luffa) and Katie Burgess (Arena), who is just 12, shared the bronzes with brilliant performances.
In the 17-and-under sabre, Matthew Bradshaw (Arena) was unbeatable to take his first sabre title in a wonderfully-fast display.
Freya Jenkins (Seaford College), only 11, was incredible in second place, not fazed at all by the age of her opponents or this being her first sabre competition.
Her club-mate Henry Bedford, who is the same age, and Francesca McBride (PHS) did fantastically to take the bronzes.
Next was one of the highest-class fields seen in many years for the 12-and-under foilists.
There was a high standard of fencing on display and each fight was an absolute pleasure to watch.
CFC and Westbourne House’s Kian Buchholz fenced brilliantly to take the title, adding to the large tally he already possesses.
The Arena and Bishop Luffa’s Harry Gray took silver in the closest and most tense final of the day, only one point separating the contenders. Kian and Harry kept their cool, fenced beautifully and were a joy to watch.
Prebendal pupil Rhianna Batchelor and CFC and The Arena’s Kasian Paszkowski were the worthy bronze recipients.
Both fenced brilliantly to share the glory and Kasian, having not yet fenced for a whole term, was simply stunning.
The prestigious style medal, awarded to the fencer with the best command of footwork and therefore the most potential for the future, was awarded to Westbourne House’s Harry Linsell in a unanimous decision by the judges. Although he was in his first competition, he shone from his very first step.
Next came the largest number of junior fencers ever collected together in one sports hall in Sussex: the seven-and-under and nine-and-under foilists totalled 70 children.
Every one of them, despite their extreme youth, was fantastic, fencing beautifully and sportingly. There were eight finalists in each category with each the recipient of a hard-earned medal.
The medallists in the seven-and-unders were Daragh Walker (Westbourme House), Jamie Holligon (Oakwood), Leo Mazrani (Westbourne House), Frazer Budd (Fishbourne Primary).
In joint bronze medal positions were Samuel Russell (Arena) and Finlay Jackson (Ditcham Park); silver was won by newcomer Theo Parkes (St Johns) and the worthy winner was Elliott Winskill of Ditcham Park School.
The winner of the style medal was Amruthesh Kumar of Chichester’s Central School, with lovely footwork.
Medallists in the nine-and-under category were Jack Waterworth (Oakwood), Nathan Potts (Oakwood), George Batt (Windlesham House), Patch Joynson (Seaford College), with bronzes going to CFC’s Phoenix Ashworth and Ditcham’s Nathan Winskill.
Westbourne House produced another medallist with a great display by Noah Mazrani, and CFC’s Mathias Dawson added to his collection of wins with yet another – the largest-ever haul of wins.
The style medal went to the fabulous feet of the ALC and CFC’s Ethan Mansfield, one of the classiest fencers in the area and bound to go very far.
The 17-and-under foil had a special category within it – the 14-and-under foil – to accommodate the number of exceptionally-brave younger competitors, some as young as 12. They didn’t disappoint.
In the 14-and under category, Brandon Robbins (Arena) and Connor De Trafford (Ditcham) shared bronzes.
Silver was claimed after a tough final by Bishop Luffa’s rising star, Joshua Briffett, while the gold was claimed once again by The Arena’s Matthew Bradshaw, adding to his earlier sabre triumph.
In the 17-and-under category, youngsters Connor and Joshua again fenced superbly to carry off the bronzes in a much higher age group than their own.
CFC’s Jamie Loake fenced with his usual superb style to claim silver, narrowly losing in an extremely-exciting final.
Fencer of the competition most definitely has to be awarded to The Arena’s Matthew Bradshaw, who carried off a third gold medal for his hat-trick, a truly exceptional performance, and one everyone will remember for a very long time.
The elite foil lived up to its name with star performances and nail-biting finishes from all contenders from CFC, with some of Great Britain’s top young foilists in action.
Sebastian Maxted and Max Hooper were stunning, narrowly missing out on semi-final places to win sixth and fifth places respectively.
Robin Elliott won another medal to add to his earlier epee triumph, sharing the bronzes with Oscar Pickering, one of the stars of CFC.
Tom Raymond-Wells was on scintillating form to take the silver after a worthy final against Archie Evans.
Never was a gold medal more deserved than by Evans, who has only just recovered from serious debilitating illness and injury (not from fencing). He’d had both legs in plaster, then his sword arm in the same state.
It was a wonderful achievement in his very first competition only a couple of weeks after the last cast was removed.
CFC said an enormous thank-you to Westbourne House School for the loan of its facilities and to all the young referees who gave up their entire day to help other youngsters achieve their dreams.
Without these young people, such competitions would not be possible.
If you would like to give fencing a try, whatever your age, ability or disability, e-mail Sharon Blackman at firstname.lastname@example.org