Stirling University Fencing Club have raised their profile this year, with the women’s team claiming gold at the national BUCS championships in Nottingham.
After reaching the final for the first time, they defeated their Cardiff counterparts by a single point, winning 128-127 to claim the British title.
The team consisted of the club’s president Nenah Verkaik, Chloe Campbell, Mila Maina, and Faye Perry.
The team won the sabre section 45-38 and narrowly came out on top in the foil with a 45-44 victory, after a thrilling comeback by Mila. While the team lost 38-45 in the epee, they secured enough points to emerge as champions.
President Verkaik said: “It’s an incredible achievement for the team and I’m very proud of how everyone performed.”
Whereas most BUCS teams have members with specialisms in different weapons, the Stirling women are all inconveniently specialised on foil. This meant that they had to train harder on the epee and sabre to compensate.
Although the four have fenced for years, the team still had to put in an incredible amount of work.
Verkaik said: “BUCS isn’t something that you can walk into, it’s a different dynamic altogether.”
The fencing club have had a busy year from start to finish. The academic year started with the Highland Open in Elgin, where their coach Rob Blackburne won gold in the epee. In the women’s events, Chloe Campbell won gold in the women’s foil and Nenah Verkaik took silver.
The club have been represented at every possible competition this year, as well as hosting their own ‘Stirling Sword’ in January.
In terms of membership, the club have doubled in size this year.
Social secretary and president-elect Paul Verdon said: “Last year there was no women’s team, but this year they won the BUCS nationals. In previous years the men’s team has struggled, but this year we had enough members to send people to every competition.”
The club boasts an even mix of beginners and veterans, showing that fencing is an inclusive sport here at Stirling. And as a small sports club, they are a tight-knit group which is great for keeping team spirit high.
The success has not came without its struggles, however. Due to the ongoing building works at the sports centre this year, the club have had difficulties getting regular training slots.
Verdon said: “The Sports Union have tried their best to help us out, but we’ve been pushed around with training times. Sometimes, we’ve been moved out of the sports hall and training has unfortunately been cancelled regularly.”
Campbell, Verdon and Verkaik are all on the reserve list for the student four nations, organised by Scottish Student Sport, where they would represent the best of fencing in Scottish universities against other nations.
And Verkaik will once again travel down to Nottingham to compete in the GB cup in an intermediate competition on June 22.
In other news, the club have just submitted an application for Tier 2 funding. If the club receive this, they would be able to expand training times and introduce more 1 on 1 training sessions, which would help new members improve quicker.
Fencing is a growing sport at Stirling, and both president Verkaik and president-elect Verdon are excited to see how the club will grow next year.
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