Lucy-Belle Williamson has made British fencing history by becoming the first under-ten to win gold in two different weapons in the British Youth Championships.
The Skipton Fencing Club member decided to compete in the Sabre event in Oxford-shire after defending her title in the Epee Championships held in Northamptonshire with a magnificent performance, ending the final with a clear 10-1 victory.
Lucy-Belle, who attends St Michael’s Primary School, Foulridge, has had a fantastic start to the season, winning all of the national competitions that she has entered and also retaining her Yorkshire championship title.
The ten-year-old also began fencing internationally this year and has recently returned from her first competition in Poland. Being determined to develop her fencing, Lucy-Belle has taken advice from senior British Fencing officials and coaches to gain as much experience of international fencing as possible.
Lucy-Belle’s father, Ian Williamson said: “The standard of fencing is so much higher in many of the European countries, some of which have special schools for talented fencers where they train daily. “Lucy-Belle represented her country well and being in the lower age bracket for the competition she did well to finish in 61st place out of 134.
“She also came away with a handful of techniques that she must now work on, in order to compete on level terms with her international competitors. There is a steep learning curve to get to grips with the different styles, languages and competition formats but Lucy-Belle is determined that these things are not going to stop her from reaching her goal.”
Her next target is to win a third British title with her preferred weapon – foil. Last year she won a bronze medal but is determined to improve on that performance, as she aims to become British Champion of all three fencing disciplines in the same year, a feat that has never been achieved before.
Once the championships are over, Lucy-Belle will then begin preparing for a return to Europe later in the year for more international competitions where she expects to use the new techniques that she has been hard at work practicing.
Fencing is an expensive sport and in the coming weeks, Lucy-Belle’s parents are going to be actively seeking sponsorship and support for Lucy-Belle so that she can continue to develop and attend the international competitions, each one costing around £600.
They contribute to an annual cost estimated to be £10,000 It is not just the cost of travel, but also equipment as when you hit your opponents with a steel blade, it does sometimes snap which is both costly in terms of the replacement blade, but also in the equipment that is worn to protect against injury.
Lucy-Belle is clear about what she enjoys most about fencing. She said: “I love the speed and tactics which are used to try and defeat my opponents. They are trying to hit me while I try to hit them. Sometimes, I think about a move that I could do but know that I am not yet good enough to do it.
“I have to be so focused because fencing is so fast and if my mind slips for one moment I will get hit. “It is a battle, using nearly every muscle in my body and my brain to try and make my opponent think I am going to do one thing when I do something different.
“I also have to train my body to react without thinking about it so that I can block an attack and hit back in the blink of an eye.”
Her father Ian added: “The speed Lucy-Belle has now reached means that we have to review her fights from video in slow motion so that we can see what is happening and understand how she needs to develop.
“Minor adjustments to the way in which she moves can make all the difference when you consider that two blades are moving around so fast that electrical signalling has to be used to determine which fencer hit first.
“We are all extremely grateful for the support that Lucy-Belle currently receives from Skipton Fencing Club, her coach Jim Lockyer, Pendle Leisure Trust and West Craven Sports Centre where Lucy-Belle practices regularly as well as the many other coaches that advise and train her on training days and competitions.
“It is clear that sporting success requires the athlete to have the right opportunities and support as well as talent and determination and we are going to do all that we can to ensure that Lucy-Belle has the opportunity to succeed.”