A Chester fencing club is celebrating its tenth anniversary of going “en garde” in the city.
Chester Fencing Club Salle Scipanovs was formed in 2007 by the professional Latvian coach Valerijs Scipanovs, with help from Brian Turner, his friend for 25 years and the first club chairman, and Linda Kent.
There was no fencing in Chester when Valerijs arrived as the once-thriving – and nationally successful – Chester Fencing Association had closed because of the committee members’ retirement.
Valerijs had to start from scratch with no equipment and no knowledge of the system of sport in the UK, which was very different from that in post-soviet Latvia.
He said: “I cannot thank Brian and Linda enough for the help and support they selflessly gave me with setting up the club.
“Looking back, I feel now the same enthusiasm and inspiration about promoting fencing in Cheshire that I did a decade ago when Dr Basil Thompson, former coach of Chester Fencing Association, and his wife invited me to their house to pass on their trust and support to the newly established Chester Fencing Club.
”I am most grateful to Dr Thompson for his numerous encouraging addresses to young fencers at school competition presentation ceremonies he attended in the following years.”
After receiving a grant from the National Lottery, the club was able to buy the necessary equipment and started introducing fencing to Cheshire primary and high schools.
The programme took off and Valerijs was soon delivering fencing lessons as before and after-school activities in 10–15 schools weekly with 200–250 pupils introduced to the sport that was formerly considered an elite one.
Many joined the British-Fencing-affiliated Chester Fencing Club Salle Scipanovs and its numbers grew rapidly from just six members.
It now boasts some of the most technically gifted and talented competitors in the North West. Since 2007 the club has gone from strength to strength and is now one of the top fencing clubs in the North West region.
Valerijs is extremely proud of the fact that the club fencers have year after year qualified to represent their region at the popular Winton Cup and the British Youth Championships in all age groups as well as winning titles at all the major junior competitions such as NW Junior Series, LPJS events, the English Youth Championships, and the British Youth Championships.
“These are fantastic results from very talented young people. They are an inspiration and a joy to work with. The success is not just down to talent and hard work. It has also come about from training in a supportive, friendly, and fun environment”, said Valerijs.