Above: Richard Michell 3rd from the left

Richard Michell, a pupil at Scarisbrick Hall College, fenced at the under 15 Newcastle Epee yesterday. In addition to the expected mix of local epeeists and regular series competitors, there was a large contingent of Scottish cadets who had come down to Newcastle the day before for the British Cadet Foil selection event and had decided to stay the extra day and enrol in the Leon Paul event as well.

The presence of so many good additional fencers proved quite disruptive to the initial seeding round, with many of the higher epee seeds finding themselves pushed off the top of the tables. Richard was not immune from this and could not establish a commanding position, even loosing one of his fights to Louis Bryson from Dunblane 5-4. At the end of the first round Richard was ranked sixth.

Fortunately, the epeeists were starting to adapt to the foilists style and the usual top seeds were able to re- establish themselves before the start of the direct eliminations. Richard managed to advance to tied first place with his old rival Billy Shepherd from Skipton. Richard and Billy have crossed swords on many occasions and know each other very well. Before the Leon Paul series they had been rivals in the Northwest Junior series where they both cut their teeth as competitive fences.

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The early direct elimination rounds were straight forward for Richard as he gained the benefit of his top seeding to face the weaker fencers at the tournament. He won his first fight 15-0 in just under 3 minutes; his bemused opponent not really knowing what had hit him! The second round was a more challenging affair with Patrick Carey, but Richard took control and won through by a decisive 15-6. Interestingly, the threat posed by the Scottish foilists quickly evaporated over the first two rounds, as in the longer bouts to 15, the Epeeists were able to adapt to the differing styles and win through.

Richard’s semi-final fight was with Murray Begley-Jones from St George’s College in Surrey. Murray is an England youth international and was seeded third after the poules. He and Richard were very evenly matched and Murray establishing dangerous leads on two occasions, requiring Richard to perform some acrobatic attacks to level the score. The match went to two periods, the second starting with Richard holding a narrow lead of 13-12. Murray launched an immediate surprise attack to level the score again. They both then closed for a play of blades in which Richard found an angle for a tight riposte. Shortly after this point, Richard took Murray by surprise with a sweeping foot hit to win the match 15-13.

Richard then progressed to the final where he once again faced Billy Shepherd. For good reason both fencers started with great caution, knowing that the other would quickly exploit any rash or poorly executed attack. Richard secured a few early points from a combination of flicks to the wrist and foot, but Billy adapted quickly and replied with some lightning close-quarter stop hits. By the end of the first period, Billy held a narrow lead at 7-6.

After the break, fatigue was starting to effect Richard’s accuracy, and Billy kept the lead by punishing Richard’s misses with well placed ripostes. Richard reverted to caution, realising the match could easily slip away from him. He managed to briefly level the score at 9 all with a well timed stop hit to Billy’s mask, but it was Billy who seemed to have the greater energy reserve and he yet again pulled ahead to 12-10. Once more, Richard had to dig deep to find a way to keep himself in the match and he surprised Billy by swapping back to the offensive with a quick succession of three fleches to take a narrow lead at 13-12. Richard attacked again, but this time Billy was expecting it and they both scored due to the double hit. With only seconds remaining at the end of the second period Richard feigned a fleche which prematurely drew Billy’s reply. Richard parried this and then riposted to score the winning touch for another close 15-13 win.

ots-southport-michell 1This was a hard fought for result and a tremendous achievement against some very talented and determined

young fencers. The ranking points Richard has gained from this competition extend his lead at the top of the Leon Paul series so that he can no-longer be overtaken by anyone else with the points remaining in the series.

Richard would like to thank West Lancashire Borough Council for their talented athlete award and Premier Wealth Management Ltd., a Southport based firm of independent financial advisers, for their generous sponsorship. He would also like to thank his school coach, David Stobbs, for teaching him the skills to be able to compete at this level, and Edge Hill University’s Sports Science department who have been helping him develop a sport specific conditioning programme. Without all of their support, Richard would not be able to achieve the success he has in this series of national tournaments.

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