A group of six fencers from Shetland travelled to Glasgow last weekend to join five other Shetland Fencing Club members to compete in the Glasgow Senior Open competition.
This is one of the major Scottish competitions on the calendar, drawing a large entry from all over the UK and beyond.
The minimum age for this senior event is 13 and so for Stephen Leask, 13, this was his first senior event and would prove a tough challenge, with fencing all day Saturday and Sunday. The Glasgow Open is an individual event but over the weekend there is also an overall team shield. This meant that every Shetland fencer, even in their first event, would contribute to the team’s score.
On Saturday the men’s and ladies contested the épée and sabre competitions. The fencers go through two rounds of pools, fencing to five hits each fight. This gives the seeding for the direct elimination and is an important part of the competition to make the progress through direct elimination easier.
Paul Hibbert started strongly, gaining wins against some highly ranked fencers. This gave him confidence and he didn’t look back, being seeded first out of the 59 entries, a big personal best.
Paul went on to the direct elimination stages and managed to reach the quarter final before losing only his second fight of the day. He reached a creditable fifth in the competition.
Chris Rocks, again in the épée, reached the last eight and finished in 7th place.
There were solid performances from Chris Hudson (18th), Jordan Thomason and Kyle Smith (32nd), also in the épée.
In the sabre event Stephen Rocks looked very sharp as he, like Paul in the épée, was seeded first out of the 32 entries. He also reached the last eight for a final position of 5th.
Magnus Johnston and Stephen Leask also competed in the sabre and Stephen kept up his technique and concentration well in his first competition and was able to contribute several good hits for the team.
Sophie Drosso played her part for the team in her “second” weapon, the sabre, on Saturday.
On Sunday there were two events, the ladies’ and men’s foil, where the Shetland team were joined by Liam Drosso and Sophie Rocks.
The men’s foil had an encouragingly large entry of 84, and after the two round of pools, the last 20 would be “cut” to leave a direct elimination from last 64 down to the final.
Competition was tough and Paul Hibbert, in his second weapon the foil, fenced well in his pools to reach 35th place out of 84. But he still had a tough fight in the last 64 at which stage he went out along with Chris Hudson and Kyle Smith who also made the last 64 to finish in the top half of the competition.
Sophie Drosso fenced well through the pools and kept her nerve to come through some tight fights to be seeded fourth after the pools in the ladies’ event, going on to lose a direct elimination fight in the last 16.
The efforts of all the fencers, including the younger Stephen Leask again and Sophie Rocks, were not to go unrewarded when it came to the team award.
A mention must be made of the secondary competition which is run after the early direct elimination fights, open to all fencers who are knocked out in the first round of direct elimination.
Chris Hudson, who against recent form didn’t reach the later stages, was determined to do well in the secondary competition. He made the final, losing out to a fencer he knows well, but securing a silver medal.
Despite fencing both weapons all weekend, Magnus Johnston was fit enough to make a creditable eighth in the secondary foil late on in the second day, matching Jordan Thomason who came eighth in the secondary épée the day before.
At the end of the weekend, as the awards were presented, the Shetland fencers were delighted to hear that the club had won second place in the team competition behind Edinburgh Fencing Club.
To round off a good weekend, the shield for the best male pupil overall in the competition was awarded to Paul Hibbert.