Bexleyheath fencing junior heading in the right direction
PUBLISHED: 09:42 21 March 2013 | UPDATED: 09:58 21 March 2013
As Bexleyheath teenage fencing star Laura Gladdish's mum Rose explains, "fencing is not something I'd have thought a young girl would take to."
Many parents would probably agree with her, but Blackfen School for Girls pupil Laura has excelled in the sport since she took it up when she was eight. She has now risen to win the UK under-20 women’s sabre national championships, despite being just 15.
So what’s it like to compete against girls who are four or five years older than her?
“I like the challenge that older competitors set for me,” she says. “Some people might find it intimidating but I find it exhilarating.
“As soon as I started fencing I loved it, although I’m not naturally a sporty person. My coach realised I had potential and invited me to a more advanced club, predicting I could win the under-12 category of the British Youth Championships with the right training – and I did!”
The teenager, who lives in Brasted Close, represented the UK in the Junior European Championships in Budapest last month, finishing 10th.
To score a point in sabre, you have to, in Laura’s words, “be the first to hit the opponent in the electrical area above the torso, but the hands are not a target. We are wired up to an electrical box and when we score a hit a light comes on, a different colour for each opponent. It can get very complicated.”
She trains two or three times a week and more often when competitions are coming up. That’s not to mention the 50-mile round trip she regularly makes from her home to training club Malling MX, in East Malling, where she is perfecting her skills.
Laura admits it is a struggle to juggle all of her commitments but says it is a sacrifice worth making.
“It can be difficult to balance fencing, schoolwork and my social life. I don’t hang out with my friends as much as I would like. But I know the training will pay off and I’m happy to make these sacrifices.
“My mum always says my schoolwork is most important, although I sometimes disagree.”
Rose may be right about the schoolwork because, as although Laura would love to be a professional fencer, it is a hard sport to make a living out of and funding from UK Sport is extremely limited.
Nevertheless her parents are immensely proud of her proficiency in a rarely played sport.
Rose said: “We are amazed how Laura just took to fencing and the whole family are very proud of her achievements and dedication.
“We drive her to her competitions and it can be quite an arduous process, sometimes taking up two days or more, but we wouldn’t change it for the world.”
As well as her family, she has a supportive school and has received funding from Coca-Cola, which enables her to go on international trips.
Laura added: “I travel around the UK a lot, probably every weekend. I enjoy travelling abroad because it gives me the opportunity to meet new people and experience new cultures while doing something I love.”