Four local fencers suffer viral flu at world tourney

These fencers from Limpopo's Ere Sabel (Mokopane) and Firebird (Polokwane) Fencing Clubs represented South Africa at the Junior and Cadet World Fencing Championship in Plovdiv, Bulgaria from April 1 to 10. They are Eben Wagner, Caylin Duncan, Michelle Butler and Anokha van Manen.

POLOKWANE – The four fencers experienced ten days of fierce competition along with about 1 300 competitors from nearly 100 countries.

The championship featured 19 events of individual, team, and mixed-team events in two age categories for young men and women in sabre, foil, and epee disciplines.

Eben Wagner, who is from the Ere Sabel Fencing Club in Mokopane, was accompanied by Polokwane’s Firebird Fencing Club’s Caylin Duncan, Michelle Butler and Anokha van Manen. It was the second time Wagner competed at a world championship event and the first international outing for van Manen, Butler and Duncan.

Besides the fierce competition, the four fencers and several of their South African teammates were hampered by a viral flu. Firebird’s Butler, who completed her competitions, was the most severely affected by this flu and was admitted to hospital suffering from a very high fever.

According to Tersia Goosen, representative for the Firebird Fencing Club, the other fencers from Limpopo were hampered by the viral flu whilst competing. Goosen says under these circumstances, and the high level of competition they faced, these four fencers deserve to be recognised for their valiant efforts.

Another fact which she emphasized is that fencing in South Africa, and especially Limpopo, is very under-funded and funding is generated from private individuals and club members.

Goosen added that where Limpopo’s fencers practice four hours a week, the top fencers at this world championship practice up to four hours a day. She says this fact places quite a significant gap between South African fencers and the world’s top fencers at this championship.

Wagner competed in the cadet category where he took part in the epee and foil disciplines. Duncan, Butler and van Manen all debuted in the foil discipline.

This is the third time since 2004 this event, sponsored and managed by the International Fencing Federation (FIE), took place in Plovdiv, a city renowned for welcoming major sports events.

The sports-friendly and ancient city features many amenities to support a large event such as the championship, and offers a variety of historical and cultural attractions to enrich international visitors.

The FIE also hosted several development programmes at the championship, including an anti-doping education stand featuring quizzes, prizes, and information in cooperation with Bulgarian NADO (National Anti-Doping Agency).

There was also a “Donate Your Fencing Gear” programme to encourage fencers to contribute used, but functional, gear to help fencers around the world to have access to equipment they might not otherwise be able to access or afford.

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Roelof de Jonge

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