In the midst of what has been a very successful year so far for the club, Sports Editor Ollie Weeden interviewed Men’s and Women’s Team Captains James and Francesca to learn about one of our most interesting and unique sports on campus.
Q: Hi guys, thanks for taking the time to speak to us. First of all, how has the year been for the club so far?
F: It has been very successful we have more members than last year and have developed very solid mens and womens teams. We also had a bigger influx of experienced fencers as well, most of who are staying on at the club for the next academic year. Furthermore we have also been working on achieving a Gold Level Club status with RUSU.
J: Pretty good in general. The club has taken on more members than I can ever remember, and we’ve had several new-comers who have decent fencing experience, giving a decent boost to the teams. A lot of our beginners have come a long way too, and were hoping to get them playing in a couple of friendly competitions soon. There’s definitely more of a club atmosphere too. In past years there’s been a divide between the new comers and those from previous years, but this year it hasn’t happened, probably because we always end up in the pub together after training
Q: Did you have any success during re-refreshers last month?
J: Re-freshers went reasonably well for us. We’ve had a few more members join off of the back of it, and they’ve really dived into the sport. Most of them are at a pretty similar standard to those who joined in September.
F: Yes. We participated in ‘Give it a Go’ week and had a article in the Spark as well so we managed to gain a few extra members.
Q: How are the beginners in the club faring? Is Fencing something you can learn quickly?
J: Most of the beginners are doing very well, with a few looking as though they may be in a position to fence for the university next year. Fencing isn’t something like football or badminton where you can learn the basics within a couple of sessions. Often it takes at least a year before someone will be at a position where they might be considered to play in a BUCS match. But like with all sports, it really depends on how dedicated you are. Some take to it very quickly and can be fencing at a relatively high level within a year or so.
F: They are coming along rather well. We have 2 excellent coaches and the experienced fencers also help out in teaching the beginners as well. I would say that it is difficult to begin with as there is a lot of skill behind it. And you have to learn how to stand how to move but, it’s like with any sport once you have the basics, and you keep practicing the rest will fall into place. I think the main thing that makes it difficult is the initial fear that it’s going to hurt when you get hit- it doesn’t at all.
Q: How have you both coped with the responsibilities of being captain this year?
J:I think the hardest part of the job for me is driving the minibus to matches. We’ve nearly ended up going to Wales whilst on our way to Kent before. Other than that though it’s been fine. It teaches you how to organise people, as well as support a team on good and bad days, but it doesn’t feel as though there’s any real pressure. It mostly just feels like spending a Wednesday with your mates
F:Well I am both Women’s Team Captain and President so I have been very busy this year. However I’d say that my coping strategy is down having such a solid team and committee behind me that everything has been a breeze.
Q: With the club sitting 3 points clear at the top of the table after your most recent win against Kings, where do you see yourselves ending up in the table come the end of the season?
J:The women have been having a good year, but it’s been a little rocky for the men this season. Much of this is due to the loss of many of our star players last year, along with a higher standard of play in our league this year. Having said that, we’ve got a good, strong team, and we may yet avoid relegation
F: We (the women’s team) are SO incredibly proud of that because we haven’t won a match since 2004 and we have come together this year and come top of the table. It’s incredible. I don’t want to jinx it but we have 2 more matches left and I really hope we finish at the top of the table.
Q: Who would you say have been your standout performers so far this year? Why?
J: It’s hard to pick out any individual players. Coming from a team of two guys to a group of seven over the course of freshers has been a real saving grace this year. Going on points alone, our top scorer is Ray Rizaoglu, who has been our anchor in the sabre throughout this year. I should probably give a special mention to Sam Gibbs, who, after a cumulative nine years at the club, has been the back-bone of the team throughout his time.
F: I’d have to say the team as a whole, there is no one person as we have all worked incredibly hard to get to the top of the table. We all have supported each other and have played to the best of our ability in each weapon.
Q: When and where is the club’s next fixture? Are there any special events which the club will be hosting in the near future?
J: The next men’s fixture is looking like it will be at home to UCL 2nds. After a disappointing loss with a couple of players missing, were looking to come back with a win. Other than Varsity we have no concrete plans to host any events here in Reading, but we are hoping to take a small group to compete in the Malta Open in June
F: The women’s team are playing away next week at the Leon Paul Centre in the next round of the Conference Cup against UCL second. The following week is a match against Surrey University as part of the BUCS League. Our next home match that anyone can come and watch and support is Varsity on the 12th of March, we will be playing in Mondial.
Q: How did you see the sport continuing to develop in the UK
J: It’s difficult to say. The cost of kit can often put a lot of new people off. Schools quite often cannot afford to buy the equipment, or hire a proper coach, meaning that a lot of kids don’t have the opportunity to play unless they go to a private school, or really take an interest in it from somewhere else. Having said that, there are still plenty of newcomers to the sport, and fencing classes at places like Centerparcs has really help boost the profile of the sport. University clubs also offer a great way in, as the costs of kit and coaching are generally subsidised. Whether it will get bigger in the UK is hard to say, and there is a real problem to do with access to sport for kids, but I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon.
F: It is becoming a more popular sport in the UK but this change is gradual, it is bigger in Europe in places like Italy and Turkey. There aren’t many women taking part in the sport but it is growing. Quite often people that have joined fencing over the years here at the university have said that they originally wouldn’t have thought to do it. Perhaps this is because there isn’t as much exposure to it when you compare it to a sport like football. Also fencing is an incredibly expensive sport so many people may not be able to afford it, therefore it is great that at university you have the opportunity to try new sports at a discounted price.