Foyle fencers off to Italy

FIVE Foyle and Londonderry College students head off to Italy to compete in a European Under 17 Fencing competition, tomorrow (Thursday).

Tuesday, 12th January 2010, 1:06 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th January 2010, 1:08 pm

Lucia McCafferty, Anna Jackson and Emile McSorley are fencing in the pe, while Niamh Spence and David Connolly are fencing in the Sabre class, while only last week former pupil Andrew Fenwick was fencing in the Senior World Cup in Iran.

For coach Mike Westgate he's thrilled that fencing continues to grow and grow at the school.

"I'm quite pleased with the way things are going," he said.

"The Principal Jack Magill started fencing at the school, because he was a fencer himself and then I came here in 2000 and now we have got about 40 odd pupils fencing regularly.

"We had our first ever Northern Ireland based qualifier for the World Championships in 2000 and since then we have had a minimum of at least one, but sometimes three, which is great.

"Last year we had two who qualified for the world championships and that means they have to go abroad and get results and then they qualified for Great Britain and Ireland.

"David Burnside has qualified for this year's world championships, which take place in Azerbaijan in Easter, while we have two others who have a very good chance of also qualifying."

Westgate also believes that any students who are interested in taking fencing up, will also have the chance to see the world.

"We have travelled all over the place, to be honest they have no choice, because the pe and Sabre fencing in Northern Ireland is limited and because they are the best and so the only chance they get to experience is either go to England or to go into Europe.

"On a Monday and Tuesday we train from 3.30pm until 7pm and on Thursday's we start from 3.30pm until 9pm and if we aren't going anywhere we do 2 or 3 hours on a Saturday, so the students really need to put in a lot of dedication.

"I feel if they want to train properly they have to train a minimum of six or eight hours a week and that doesn't include physical fitness, which they also have to do because they have to be very fit.

"At the moment we have been working with the University of Ulster and they have done some fitness work with the students; once a month we join up with other fencers in Belfast and then we go to Jordanstown on Saturday, January 23 before going to Coleraine in February, where they'll do everything, from physical fitness, to skills training, sports physiology and they are also told all about drug testing."

With the 2012 London Olympics only a couple of years away, Westgate admits it would be hard for even someone like Andrew Fenwick to get into the Great Britain squad.

"All the fencers we have at Foyle are very young, even Andy, he's only 22-23 years old and for an pe you are probably looking at someone in the prime around 27 or 28 years old, but he'll have a go.

"However the fencers currently at the school will be interested in junior and under 20 events, but the ones who travel this week are still young but they'll get valuable experience in Italy and then we'll be looking for them next year to try and qualify for the World Championships."