Chichester fencing coach ‘shocked’ by New Year honour

Sharon Blackman has run Chichester Fencing Club for around 15 years
Sharon Blackman has run Chichester Fencing Club for around 15 years

Sharon Blackman has spoken of her ‘surprise’ and ‘pride’ and being named on the New Year’s honours list.

Sharon has had to keep her British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to fencing quiet since hearing about it in November.

The hugely popular coach of Chichester Fencing Club was among a number of people in Sussex to be named in yesterday’s honours list.

Sharon, from Felpham, said: “I was really surprised but what a nice surprise to have.

“I have known since November so I’ve had to keep the news quiet, I’m very pleased and very proud.

“The letter was very formal, it came in a bit of a scary envelope from the Cabinet Office, so when I opened it my first feeling was one of relief.”

Sharon has single-handedly run Chichester Fencing Club for around 15 years after taking over from its founder.

The club continues to thrive under her stewardship, with 50 members aged from five to a woman in her 80s.

As well as running the club, Sharon also coaches fencing in a huge amount of schools in Sussex, and she says she takes particular pride in teaching disabled children how to do the sport.

“The club is about 40 years old, it was handed to me by the founder who it meant an awful lot to, and it means an awful lot to me to try to continue what he started,” Sharon said.

“The club covers a real mixture of people, we have had five members placed on the Olympic Pathway and had a Commonwealth gold medallist.

“But we also have youngsters who have found it tough to fit in, who don’t want to play football or other sports and come to fencing and enjoy how individualistic it is.

“We encourage them to come and have fun and get fit and many end up doing really well.

“We have wheelchair fencers and those with all sorts of disabilities who absolutely love it.”

Sharon was also nominated by a club member for a BBC Unsung Hero award, for which she has received a special trophy which she is also delighted with.

She will pick up her BEM at a local ceremony, before being invited to a garden party in Buckingham Palace next summer.

Ian Thornley, from Petworth, and Simon Brett, from Arundel, have been handed OBEs for services to disabled people and to literature respectively.

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