Scarisbrick Hall College Fencer Wins 2014 Leon Paul Junior Series
Richard Michell, a pupil at Scarisbrick Hall, has just been confirmed as this year’s Leon Paul Junior Series under 15 epee champion. This competition is the country’s largest youth fencing contest, consisting of a series of tournaments organised by local clubs from Cornwall to Scotland.
Richard started foil fencing at school four years ago. He later joined West Lancs. club where he was introduced to epee. This is a heavier weapon than the foil, with different rules, where the whole body is the target, not just the torso. At the club Richard met established competition fencers including Tom Phillips-Langley. Tom encouraged Richard to enter the Northwest Junior Series in both foil and epee. By the end of 2013 Richard was at the top of the Northwest rankings for epee and was selected for the regional cadet team.
This year, Richard decided to step up to the national circuit and the Leon Paul in particular. This has been much more demanding, involving additional equipment, sponsorship, time away from home and extra training; all of which has had to be fitted into an already busy schedule.
The first series event was the Cornwall Epee in Truro. Here Richard had his first encounter with last years champion, Alexander Sells from Plymouth. Although seeded first after the poules, Richard had to settle for a bronze medal. Next came the Yorkshire Epee, which was strongly contested by local fencers, none too keen on a Lancastrian winning their tournament! Never-the-less, Richard worked his way through the top 3 Yorkshire cadets to win his first gold of the series.
Richard’s next tournament was at Durham where he was piped to the gold by the current English youth champion, Matthew Dickinson. At this point, Richard’s three medals had him tied at the top of the rankings with Alexander. The next event was the largest of the Leon Paul’s, the Warwick Cup. This event attracts many additional fencers as it is regarded as one of the best youth tournaments in the fencing calendar and it again brought Richard head-to-head with Alexander.
On the day, Alexander was ranked first after the poules and Richard could only meet him if they both reached the final. Alexander did easily, but Richard had a tougher time, yet battled through. So the series leadership came to be decided by this one match. It was incredibly closely fought with the score reaching 14-14 tournament point, but Richard finally found a way to land the deciding touch. After this, there were a further six events in the series and Richard attended three: Canterbury, Newcastle and Packwood. At Newcastle, he won his third gold, making it impossible for anyone to overtake him in the series rankings.
In addition to the Leon Pauls, Richard won the Northwest Youth Championships and finished fifth in the English Youth Championships, loosing to Matthew for a second time. In the autumn, Richard attempted the British selection circuit, a series of four events used to choose the under 17 GB team. This was extremely demanding, but he managed to finish 18th in the last event and was seeded 23rd over all. As luck would have it, he encountered Matthew again for the third time this year and took great delight in beating him 5-4!
Richard’s head master, Mr. Shaw comments: “We are delighted with the success Richard has had. He is an excellent student who has demonstrated what drive, determination and talent can achieve. He is a real inspiration to all of our students, and is also on track to achieve an excellent set of GSCE results in August.”
Scarisbrick Hall has one of the most extensive co-curricular programmes on offer, being one of a limited number of schools in the region to provide fencing training. Other options include: circuit training, yoga, taekwondo, as well as the usual team sports. They are presently investing £25 million in new facilities, including a Science Faculty and Sixth Form Suite that will open in 2015.
The school’s fencing coach, David Stobbs, is pleased with Richard’s progress and is keen to develop his potential as far as possible. It has been a good year for David, for not only has Richard won the Leon Paul, but Tom has been selected for the national cadet foil team as well!
Next year, Richard has decided to stay on as part of the first intake for the new sixth form. He will have to manage his time carefully, to fit fencing in around academic studies and other interests. Richard is also very grateful for the sponsorship he has received from Adrian Shandley, managing director of Premier Wealth Management and West Lancashire’s talented athlete award, who have provided his fencing equipment. Although he is now too old for the Leon Paul, Richard will be returning to the British selection circuit in the new year with renewed determination to win his national colours and be selected for the cadet team.
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