This Edinburgh Fencer Can

As a follow up to our This Edinburgh Girl Can, The Student profiles two of Edinburgh University Fencing Club’s athletes.

Zoe Sudderick
What is your sport and what level do you compete at?
My sport is fencing and I compete at International level

How did you start out in your sport? What attracted you to it?
I started at a club at school at age 7. My sister was already fencing at the club and I thought it looked interesting. I was better at sports that involved more thinking/strength than running sports so fencing seemed interesting. Plus swords were always attractive.

What are some challenges you face as a women athlete?
Training as hard and as often as the men do and still losing due to smaller size and less physical strength. Also just fewer women take up the sport, so often hard to find good training opportunities.

What’s your biggest achievement, and how did it feel?
At 17 I was selected for the GB Junior (U20) team to compete in the European circuit. It felt really good as it meant I was one of the top 12 in Britain and I could represent GB against countries with a lot more experience and a lot more fencers. It felt like all the work I’d put in had paid off and it gave me more confidence in myself.

What changes would you make to increase female participation in sport?
I think especially in fencing we need more female coaches. Also I believe we need to promote top female athletes to give more women role models. We need to raise female athletes to the level of their male peers. Giving women more sport options may help and more places where women can play sport. When I was younger I played a lot of different sports but mainly rugby and cricket. When I got older I couldn’t play anymore as you weren’t allowed to compete with the boys but there were no girl’s teams in the area that I could join. Having more clubs around the UK would help girls to continue with sport.

Viktoria-Louise Koch
What is your sport and what level do you compete at?
Fencing. I compete on the Edinburgh University A Team here in Britain and on the Swiss national team in general. Have been on the team since I was about 14 and competed internationally as a Cadet, Junior and now at the Senior level.

How did you start out in your sport? What attracted you to it?
I started more as an afterthought really, I was horseback riding when I was a kid and fell in love with the TV series Zorro. My brother was big into knights and swords as a kid and I kinda joined in. In school all my friends started ballet, which I never really got into so I decided to opt for the fencing program and ended up falling in love with in and started to pursue it, everything kinda escalated from there. I linked that it was a sport where everyone was equal in a way because we all wear the same clothes and that respect is a big part of the sports traditionl, but the real thing that I love is that it is both mental and highly physical, it’s like chess combined with intense body control.

What are some challenges you face as a women athlete?
Women in fencing are usually regarded as being less ‘entertaining’ then the men because male fencing is more physical whereas women fence more tactically. So I have had to slap down a few guys in training that thought we couldn’t keep up with them. It is more about the classic stereotypes of women in combat sports, with us being considered less agile, fast and strong, but we are just as capable as the men and usually that shows on the fencing strip. I have had to deal with a lot arrogance from men, but most of it made me stronger and prone to work more then all of them. That is one good thing about fencing, because no matter how strong or fast you are you can still be beaten, especially if you get cocky.

What’s your biggest achievement, and how did it feel?
I have won national competitions and been selected for some important things, but I must say that winning my first national event after coming back from an injury felt really good, it showed me that all the hard work always pays out but patience is key.

What changes would you make to increase female participation in sport?
Changes are definitely necessary in terms of how we advertise sport in order for more women to feel represented in sport. I think the main reason that is something I advocate is because we have to teach young girls that power and strength are beautiful and that determination and drive are not male attributes. I think that in recent years female sport has expanded, but most of the time girls are scared to start a traditionally male dominated sport. So I think the main thing to bear in mind is that no matter what sport you do as a woman, you have every right to be there.

 

Photo courtesy of Graham Campbell

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