Abi Watkins

Steve Edwards had a great catch up with Fencing Awardee Abi Watkins.

What about your sport do you like the most?

Acquiring new skills and developing tactics, becoming fitter in order to use my skill. Working out my opponent’s tactics and their skill level. New fencers are difficult because they are un-predictable.

When and what first got you interested in the sport? 

My father had been a keen club fencer and first took me to Malvern Hills Swords in the summer of 2012 and on my first visit the Canadian Olympic Pentathlon team dropped in. That was that. I started doing Foil but its Epee for me, I wasted a year with foil but it shows it pays to try every aspect of your sport.

Can you give us a list of your top accomplishments, records you may have broken and your personal highlights so far or your proudest moments?

  1. British U23 Championships 15th

Welsh Youth League Shield U15 Winner.

Welsh National Junior Championships…Gold Medallist.

Welsh National Senior Championships …Silver Medallist.

  1. Sainsbury’s 4nations School Games…BronzeMedallist.

Represented Wales in the 5 nation Senior Team Championships.

Elite Epee Junior Series …Gold medallist.

WestMids Senior Championships …Gold medallist.

British Junior Championships… (U20) 5th.

Represented Wales in Cadet Winton Regional Team Competition.

Represented Wales in Senior Winton Regional Team Competition.

Welsh Open Senior 8th.

Bedford Open…Silver medallist.

Birmingham International Open …22nd.

Represented GBR in Copenhagen, Bratislava, and Klagenfurt. (Luxemburg declined invitation).

Invited to represent GBR U20 until they realised I was under 16, the invitation was cancelled.

What are your future aspirations, short term and long term — particular tournaments, events, maybe even the Olympics, turning pro? 

Presently my GB ranking is Junior U20 7th and Senior 18th (14th when oversea fencers taken out). I am hopeful Welsh fencing will be sending Epee fencers to both the Junior and Senior Commonwealth Games in 2018. My ranking at the moment I need other Welsh fencers to improve their ranking. I am top ranked Welsh fencer. Short term goal Commonwealths 2018 and 2022… long term, Olympics 2024 and the European and World Cups on the way. Go for it!

What did the grant help you with and what difference has it made? 

The CG5 grant enabled me to attend my first inter-national competition. I was able to equip to FIE standards. Mask, swords, glove and plastron to make my debut in international fencing. The Honour of representing GBR is huge and the boost to my confidence is massive thank you CG5.

Is it difficult to balance sports with school work? (What does a typical day look like, how much time is spent training and practicing) 

I have about 2 hour’s homework a day, some have longer hand-in times so I can juggle things around training and sparring. The new electronic internet homework diary is not helpful, teachers add extras to homework without prior notice and I am expected to pick up on this which can wreck training timetables.

I train twice a week in addition the to two sessions of PE and Games, I also attend two residential training camps in school breaks. I have also been invited to train and spar with the AASE program on a casual basis because I am not old enough to join the scheme as a trainee. I also train with Hereford Pantheon when possible to encourage their younger athletes engage with fencing.  I have an agreement with my dad that as far as possible I only compete on one day in a weekend, not always possible. This enables me to have some social time with friends. YES it is difficult but I want to go to the Olympics.

For team sports especially ask the athletes to describe their teammates. What have they learned about team work? Through sport what have they learned about their own endurance? About their personal limits? 

Difficult question: Fencing is the ultimate solo sport fought with weapons, in which you cannot get better without others. You train and spar as friends and fight in competition to defeat your opponent, then when you get your breath back you’re friends again. Defeat can be positive highlighting areas for improvement.

What words of advice or encouragement do you have to share with other young athletes? 

If your first choice sport fails to be the ‘best fit’ don’t give up try something else. Do not waste the training you have already done. Team, solo, endurance or agility there are many different sports and fencing is all of them.