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TOUCHÉ: Garston schoolgirl ranks fourth in Europe for fencing

 Published on: 7th February 2024   |   By: Annabel Stock   |   Category: Uncategorized

A Garston schoolgirl has wowed her peers and teachers after ranking fourth in her age category in Europe for fencing.

Parmiter’s School pupil Hui Xin Sezille, 14, is fencing her way to success after competing in a European competition over the weekend of January 13 and 14, which saw her rank fourth in the under 17s category in Europe.

As Hui Xin jetted off to Romania for a European competition over the weekend of January 13-14, GARSTONnews caught up with her mum, Maggie.

Maggie says that Hui Xin always loved sticks and swords and demonstrated an early affinity for fencing. As a mere 18 month old tottering around a National Trust gift shop, Hui Xin asked for a foam sword, before progressing onto wooden swords.

Maggie believes that Hui Xin’s early fascination for fencing was inspired by her reading of the Goth Girl series by children’s laureate Chris Riddell OBE, which featured a scene in which a girl duels on a rooftop with her governess. Hui Xin was also “crazy” about Pirates of the Caribbean and its swashbuckling displays of swordsmanship.

Aged seven, Hui Xin “insisted” on starting fencing lessons. Luckily, Maggie’s friend had recently recounted how her son had just started fencing at the Paul Davis Fencing Academy in St Albans, where Hui Xin lives. Paul set up the academy in 2009, aged only 20, and now has more than 1,000 students. He even teaches fencing at the Royal Ballet School. Hui Xin also does ballet and says that the discipline has been beneficial for her fencing.

Hui Xin has her work cut out balancing the demands of homework, the school orchestra and ballet, with between one and three hours of fencing every evening.

Maggie said: “Hui Xin is pretty efficient with her homework and organised with her time but for her, fencing is her down time; it’s her joy and passion.

“It’s okay though; I don’t make her do any chores!”

Despite her flair for the sport, Maggie has explained why a career in fencing is not financially viable.

She said: “If it were tennis or football, there would be subsidies and financial support available. The reason why fencing has become an elitist sport is because of the self-funding involved. The sport needs to get more recognition.”

Hui Xin loves maths and has considered a career in medicine, although she is yet to decide on a path. Despite not planning to pursue a career in fencing, she is keen to find a job which will accommodate her passion.

The three disciplines of modern fencing are the foil, the épée, and the sabre. Each discipline uses a different kind of blade and employs its own rules. Most competitive fencers specialise in one discipline and Hui Xin has focused on the sabre, which is shorter than the foil or épée and lighter than the épée, and therefore physically easier to move swiftly and decisively.

Next up for Hui Xin are the European Championships, which will take place in Naples in February, and the World Championships in Saudi Arabia in April.

Maggie said: “It’s an amazing sport and an amazing club. All the parents say how much it has brought out in their children. It’s a fantastic alternative to mainstream sports like rugby, football and netball and appeals to those who might not enjoy these more popular sports. By doing so, it increases their fitness and satisfies the sporting needs of those who might not otherwise play sport.

“While there are far fewer girls in fencing than boys, it’s really good for girls because it’s very empowering.”

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