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Fencer Hannah Smyth secures selection for Great Britain under-20 international

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Fencer Hannah Smyth, of Comberton Sixth Form.
Fencer Hannah Smyth, of Comberton Sixth Form.

Comberton Sixth Form student makes rapid progress

Fencer Hannah Smyth, of Comberton Sixth Form.
Fencer Hannah Smyth, of Comberton Sixth Form.

Hannah Smyth is not a teenager you want to cross.

She is proving to be a real whizz with a deadly weapon – in this case a sword, or more specifically a fencing foil.

Only six years after taking up the sport totally by chance, she has been selected to fence for Great Britain in an under-20 international in Bulgaria next month.

Just 17, the Comberton Sixth Form student has been forced to move from the Cadet (under-17) ranks to the Juniors (under-20) this season and had set herself a modest target of getting into the Eden Cup, in which the top 20 nationally can compete in the London leg of a World Series.

Fencer Hannah Smyth, of Comberton Sixth Form.
Fencer Hannah Smyth, of Comberton Sixth Form.

But top 16 finishes in all her four domestic competitions this season so far have propelled her to No 8 in the age group and earned her a call to the GB team for Sofia.

With no funding for fencing, it means further outlay for the Papworth teenager’s parents and their daughter’s success has certainly come at a price.

Smyth estimates last season cost the family £12,000 and she has already had to fork out £800 for a new GB kit this autumn.

“Hopefully now I’ve stopped growing the kits will last a bit longer than every couple of years,” said Smyth. “But there’s still the foils, which break all the time and cost about £100 each. And there’s the training, competing and travelling.”

It all started when she was tempted to try out a sport she had never heard of after winning a lesson with a Paralympian fencing coach as part of a rewards programme in Year 6 at Pendragon Primary School, Papworth. She quickly became hooked on what she describes as “the only sport I am any good at”.

“It’s weird,” she said. “I can’t do any sort of racket sports and I wasn’t in any teams. If it wasn’t for fencing then I probably wouldn’t do any other sports.”

That first session led her on to joining Hunts Fencing Club at St Neots, then Dragon Fencing Club at Hardwick and, having been noticed at cadet competitions, Club London at Rickmansworth.

She trains with each of her local clubs once a week and also heads to London twice a week.

Her dedication and talent saw the former Swavesey Village College pupil compete for the GB under-17s in Italy, Austria and France last season but she did not expect the international step up to come so soon.

“My aim was to get in the Eden Cup this season,” she said.

“I’ve fenced quite well this season but it was still a shock to get into the top eight so quickly.

“I’m aiming for the top four by the final year in the under-20s [she plans to fence full time in a gap year after completing A-levels at Comberton] so I can compete in the European and World Championships and then for the 2022 Commonwealth Games and 2024 Olympics as a senior.”

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