Bexley fitness coach helping Team GB fencers stand up to cut and thrust of Rio 2016
PUBLISHED: 16:03 08 January 2014 | UPDATED: 09:56 10 January 2014
Simon O'Connor Photography
Entering the final year of his undergraduate degree, Geoff Marshall had no concrete ideas about what he wanted to do with his sport and exercise degree.
Little did he know that, little more than two years later he would be on a full-time contract with Britain’s fencing team, honing their fitness for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
“I was pretty shocked to start with – I did not expect it,” said the 23-year-old from his home in Bexley Lane, Sidcup, where he had been afforded a rare day off.
Mr Marshall was interning with Championship football side Queens Park Rangers this summer when he was offered the position by his Middlesex University lecturer Anthony Turner, who also worked with the national fencing team.
The former pupil at Beths Grammar School in Hartford Road, Bexley, grabbed the opportunity to join Team GB.
He admitted, though, that he did “not have a clue about fencing” when he took up the role in September.
To ensure all the support team knew the sport, the squad arranged a staff fencing day.
“I was not too bad, but I was fencing with other guys who did not have a clue either,” said Mr Marshall.
“At the end, [the support staff] asked them [the team] if we would get at least a point off them and they said they would beat us 15-0.”
Individual fencing bouts last for three rounds of three minutes each, or until one fencer has scored 15 hits against their opponent.
But, with post-Christmas fitness tests around the corner, Mr Marshall will have a chance to exact his revenge.
However, the biggest concern for his team is whether squad members have, in fact, overtrained.
He explained: “Because they are working to be Olympians, they are all quite self-driven – they all want to be at Rio.
“Most of them are aware of overtraining and that is what we are working with them on. The performance testing is all driven towards that each morning.”
The full-time squad, all funded by UK Sport, have been coming in five days a week since September at Lee Valley Athletics Centre in Enfield.
“We have been working with them for four months now,” said Mr Marshall. “But this week we’ll be performing fitness tests on them – it should be interesting.
“The training – called V02 training – will work out their maximum heart rate. That will be useful for us because it tells us how hard we can push them.”
Amazingly, only four squad members are picked for the major competitions, such as the Olympics, out of 12, says Mr Marshall.
He is still unsure whether he will be in Brazil himself as part of the 2016 coaching team.
“Obviously that is a question I would like to know the answer too,” said Mr Marshall. “I don’t think the plans have been put in place yet.
“The World Cup next week takes place in Paris and the only support staff who will go are a physio and a performance analyst – it is just what they can afford to take.”
He will hope he does get the call, so he can complete what would be a remarkable journey from Bexley to Rio.