What a weekend for the welsh team at this year’s School Games at Loughborough University!
The whole team were a credit to themselves, their clubs and their country as they showed grit and determination to do their best, and a tremendous team spirit in helping and supporting others.
In the individual event Ian Ren, after going 2 up 4 down in his pools, managed to fence his way into bronze position by taking out team mate Henry Talbot in the L16 15-12, and Nick Howes (ENG) in the L8 15 – 13, losing out to the eventual winner Jamie Craze (ENG) in the semi finals 15-11, a fantastic result for his first games.
Abi Watkins also made her way onto the podium in bronze position after being seeded 10th from the pools. She also had to fence a team mate in the L16 (Louise Sadler) with a 9-8 victory during priority, then took out Eve Megaw (NIR) 15-10 in the L8 to make it to the semis. There she met club mate Danielle Lawson (ENG) who went on to win the fight 11-10. It was smiles all round though for her personal best at the games, and her first individual medal at this event.
Heulwen Hill took Wale’s third bronze of the event with her fantastic performance in her last games. She came out of the pools strong having won all her fights and earning herself 2ns seed going into the Direct Eliminations. She bulldozed her way into the L8 beating Ella Reid (NIR) 15-1, then a 15-11 victory against Sarah Barrett (SCO) to make it to the semis. She was eventually knocked out by Scottish Fencer Mhairi Mclaughlin 15-8 in a very well fenced match.
Jack Carafo stole the show in the Men’s epee by finishing first place, claiming the gold medal for Wales. His path was through his welsh team mates to get there, defeating Owen Edwards 15-12 in the last 16, and George Morris 15-13 in the last 8. Finishing the final in style with a spectacular jumping counter attack to defeat Christopher Carr of Scotland (who incidentally was seeded 16th from the pools beating the top seed in the last 16) 15-6.
The final day meant team event, and all the Welsh fencers were itching to see what they could do.
Women’s Epee had to deal with a sudden change of opponents after their expected match with Northern Ireland was cancelled as their team scratched. Instead they faced Scotland, and were defeated 40-30. With the bronze already in hand two of the team – Emma and Lu – agreed to have a friendly with the remaining 2 Northern Ireland girls to get that extra bit of fencing in.
Women’s foil team ended up in the bronze play off with Northern Ireland. Things didn’t go their way for the first half, but Huelwen Hill with the support of the Welsh crowd and team mated behind her, stepped up to bring them back into the lead with an amazing 12-4 victory over Sarah Shaw. Boosted by her performance the team stepped up to bring home the bronze with a score of 42-38.
Women’s sabre also found themselves in the bronze play off with Northern Ireland after a disappointing defeat against Scotland. With the team spirit that matched the American Ladies sabre team in their bronze play off in Rio, the girls had a big group hug, and got down to business. They lead from the beginning, refusing to let anyone take more than 4 points per bout, and claimed the bronze with a 45-17 victory.
It was another bronze play off for the Men’s team sabre against Northern Ireland. The boys were up for the job though after trailing in the first bout, Ian Ren brought them back up into the lead and that is where they stayed winning the match and bronze medal 45-24.
Men’s Epee fenced their way through Northern Ireland to get into the final winning the match 45-26. They then faced England in the final, but without Owen Edwards who had to step back due to injury. Edward Don, at his first games, bravely stepped up to fill the shoes of third man. England were too strong and after a well fenced match Wales had to settle for silver with a 45-28 defeat.
Men’s foil stole the show for the Welsh crowd for the day with their performance, lead by their captain Celyn Lewis. Their first match against Scotland looked to be Scotland’s day. Celyn brought them back into reach with an amazing 15 – 2 victory over Duncan Morrison leaving the boys 30-27 ahead. Scotland answered back, and our captain found himself in the final bout needing to find 11 points before Alexander Jones could find 5. Celyn pulled out all the stops, all over his opponent like a rash and found himself in the priority minute with the score at 44-44. The Welsh crowd were beside themselves, but Mr Lewis kept his cool and took the boys into the final with a spectacular compound attack. The boys claimed the silver medal after a fantastic match with England, but defeated 45-37.
So everyone in the Welsh team went home with a medal around their neck, a smile on their face, and memories and lessons to see them through until next year. It was a fantastic weekend for all. Special thanks from me to the team staff – Lynne Melia, Peter Russell and John Rees who did an outstanding job of coaching, supporting and generally being good company. Special mention to our team Attaché Howard who supported us through from the moment we got off the coach Friday, until getting back on the coach Sunday. Also thanks to Athlete mentor Keith Cook who was on hand to give some fantastic advice to our athletes all weekend.
On behalf of Welsh fencing thank you to those whose last games it was for their hard work and professionalism whilst representing their country. Well done to all the new faces on the team who proved their worth from beginning to end.
Team Manager 2016.