By Ailsa Harvey
This weekend at Gannochy Sports Centre, the Stirling Sword will take place for the ninth consecutive year.
The competition is held by the University of Stirling’s Fencing Club and for Nenah Verkaik, who has been the club’s president for just over a month, the past few weeks have been filled with equal measures of planning and excitement.
Verkaik tells us:
The Stirling Sword is usually one of the first competitions that our beginners go to. And for the Dunblane fencing club, it’s often the first ‘adult’ competition that their kids go to. It’s also a very good way for our club to build or maintain relationships with other fencers.
Last year, more people signed up for the Stirling Sword than the Scottish Fencing Open, leading to new measures being taken in this year’s events.
“We didn’t cap entries last year which led to it being slightly bigger than we could handle with the number of people we had to run it”, the president says.
“This year we have had to cap the entries at fifteen teams per weapon on the Saturday and forty-two individuals per weapon on the Sunday. Teams can have up to four members, but that rarely happens at the Sword.”
Due to the building work currently being done at Gannochy, the biggest complication came early for the team when securing the venue. Verkaik comments that “the fact that everything had to happen in a hurry has caused a fair bit of stress for this year’s committee.”
The club president will not be seen competing this year with her new role of ‘floor manager’, but says competitors representing the club will be seen in all three disciplines; epee, foil and sabre.
I just hope the atmosphere will be as convivial as it’s been in previous years. Both the Stirling Uni fencing club and the Stirling Sword are very relaxed. We compete and are competitive, but always in a good-natured way- and I suppose our competition reflects that same spirit.
Verkaik is passionate about her sport, describing it as “the ultimate physical and mental exercise”.
You use nearly your entire body as you fence, and you have to constantly analyse you’re doing and what your opponent is doing. And all of that at incredibly high speeds. A fencing blade is the second fastest object in the Olympic games, coming behind a bullet in the shooting events.
Verkaik tells us about her favourite weapon to compete in:
“My preferred weapon to compete in is foil, but the most exciting event to watch is probably sabre. It’s lightning fast and just absolutely marvellous to watch.”