September 20th 2015
Almost as soon as I hit the ‘entre’ option on the competition form the adrenaline butterflies begin! Even carting around the kit, manipulating, steps, trains, other bags plus white cane and trying not to decapitate any innocent passenger in the process is all part of the build-up for me.
Arriving in Bristol the night before the competition, I’m excited and honestly always controlling nervous energy. My mind is overflowing with all the usual questions the most pressing of which for me with a venue I’ve never fenced in before is always the lighting. It’s also the first high-level individual competition I’ve entered and I’m prepared for hard work and the possibility of not even winning a fight, but, I also craved the experience of an event of this calibre.
The first challenge I had was quite simply finding the door! Getting there in plenty of time, I could see people (moving blobs) inside fencing but after wandering round could find no apparent entry! Bemused, after texting a friend also competing I was ‘rescued’.
It’s never until I begin to warm up and stretch and start my superstitious munching of dark chocolate that I get the initial intense rush of adrenaline. In all honesty too, although I’ve managed to almost obliterate its relevance, is the ‘how much am I going to be able to see here?’ question.
It turned out that for me, that the brightness of the lighting was extremely difficult and all the usual contrasts and shadows were more of a distraction than a help. So it was time to focus on the muscle memory!
All ready to go into the poule, having found the right piste and made the referees and organisers aware of my vision, one of the organisers asked if she could have a word. She mentioned a gentleman from a local radio station who was interviewing fencers for their sport feature and said that he would be very interested to chat with me with regard to me being blind.
Managing to win one fight in my poule of six and only having one bout with no points, I couldn’t be disappointed as I honestly thought I wouldn’t win even one!
Poules done, rambling randomly through a moving blur of white and silver, attempting to avoid spools, wires, weapons and standing on anyone, the gentleman from the radio spotted me. Too wired by now to even consider being nervous we had a really great chat and many laughs. On giving him my email, he picked up on the surname and asked if he could add an extra bit to the end of what he’d already recorded – he couldn’t believe I was a relation and was enthused! As always I found this humbling as being part of that heritage means the world to me. After taking some ‘Lord of the Rings’ style photos we went our separate ways and I felt it was wonderful to have had the opportunity to share my story.
The DE was certainly no ‘knock-out’ but there were no medals for me at Bristol this year. However it truly was a fantastic experience, from the atmosphere and the fencing to having had the chance through Fate to share my story and at the time I had no idea where that interview would lead over the next month! A massive “Thank You” to you Neil Maggs!