Oli conquers nearly all in epee tourney
YOUNGSTER Oliver Strath was almost unstoppable at the 'Last of the Year' three-way fencing tournament staged in Newton Abbot.
Strath, who is 14 and a member of Newton Abbot Fencing Club, won 13 of his 14 fights against competitors from his own club, its Totnes section and the independent Kingswear club.
Fencers competed with the epee – think of a duelling weapon – and the winner was the first to reach 10 points.
It is run as what is known as a poule unique: everybody fences everybody irrespective of club. Depending on numbers, it provides three to four hours of excellent fun and exercise.
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The competition is sponsored by the website of Salago, a store in Totnes, which this year donated a mounted reproduction Henry V sword for the winner.
Jim Pilkington, who is from Totnes and a Great Britain veteran, said the tournament started in 2009 as a private affair and had quickly snowballed.
"It started when myself and Scott Willis from Bovey Tracey felt life over the Christmas break was somewhat empty without our usual three or four times a week conflict at the end of a sword," said the 74-year-old international.
"We booked a badminton court at Dyrons in Newton Abbot and had a very enjoyable two-hour work out against each other.
"In 2010 we were planning to do the same thing and the thought came to mind 'let's invite one or two other club members along as well'. From that, it was a very short step to 'let's make it a competition'. So the 'Last of the Year' was born."
Strath started fencing four years ago and has made some rapid progress in a relatively short space of time, helped by Newton Abbot coach Jan Lacey.
On the club's trip to France in October, Strath came 19th out of 57 in the U15 epee.
"It was Oli's first experience of fencing in France and was no mean achievement, bearing in mind their quite different style," said Pilkington.
"More locally, Oli won the U15s' epee at the Wellington Age Groups, and also came fourth in the foil.
"His next challenge will be the Wellington Open in mid-January. This is an adult competition on the National Circuit and from which he may earn a national ranking."
The Newton Abbot Club meets four times a week – different nights for different age groups - and further information can be found on their web site.
Enthusiasts say fencing is a sport that can be enjoyed by the handicapped and wheelchair fencers, providing an unusual and interesting challenge.
For more details of what fencing can offer the disabled or the able-bodied, visit newtonabbotfencingclub.co.uk or contact Kingswear Swords on firstname.lastname@example.org.