The wonderful support I had behind me at Commonwealth!
I left for Largs, Scotland on November 7th. I was competing on the 10th so this gave me enough time to get over the jet-lag and fully prepare for my competition. I was approaching the competition looking to bring home Gold for Canada. My training for the competition was awesome, I felt very ready to execute my game and stand on the top of the podium. I felt very confident, but I wasn’t underestimating my opponents. No matter what competition, winning requires mental focus and determination. You still have to find ways to score points.
The Commonwealth championships was a different competition from the ones I usually attend for a couple reasons. One, it was a novelty event worth no international points. Two, it was a very small event with only 60 fencers invited. Three, my parents would be attending! My parents don’t get the opportunity to see what I love to do on the World level, so I was looking forward to showing them what I can do with my passion.
I had a great training session the day before the competition and after getting all of my weapons checked I visualized success and went to sleep. I woke up feeling so ready. I was nervous and excited. I love that feeling, I can’t explain why but I live for it. My pool was announced and I approached it ready to destroy. I won every match in my pool, not convincingly but still enough to come 4th out of pools. One of my opponents, David Gregory, chatted with me after our match. I always love meeting fencers, and David was pretty cool. I got to learn about his background and training. It is always nice to meet like-minded people.
I had a bye through the first round of direct elimination. My first opponent was Mohamad Roslan from Malaysia. I had watched his previous match where he beat Thulani Manzini 15-12. I knew Roslan was very heavy on his bladework but wasn’t as fast as me. My gameplan was simple, move in and out of distance trying to provoke Roslan into searching for my blade. If he searched for my blade I would go around it and score. He was very powerful with his actions, but I was able to stay true to my gameplan throughout the entire match to win 15-11. I was feeling strong and focused.
My match in the top 16 was against Matt Henderson from England. He had disposed of my compatriot Michael McDonnell 15-6 in the round of 64, so I was happy to have an opportunity to avenge Michael. I started off the match having difficulties with Henderson’s timing. I couldn’t quite feel out when I would be safe to attack, and this resulted in him taking a 5-4 lead after the first period. I had Kyle Foster in my corner coaching me and he made a very important observation, if Henderson was applying pressure on me and I made a body feint threatening an attack Henderson would freeze. We figured I could use this to get Henderson flat footed so I could launch a very quick and explosive attack. I tied the match up at six hits a piece learning how to use my newly found information. I had found the timing and I was very confident in the new game plan. It didn’t take long for me to pull ahead of Henderson. In only a minute I had made the score 10-6 in my favour. Henderson was visibly upset and I was confident that he wouldn’t be changing anything up because he was pretty anxious. I maintained my technical discipline and closed out the match with a couple doubles to win by a score of 15-9. I was still feeling dominant and I was happy to see that my parents were having such a good time watching me win! That was very special to me. I didn’t want to end it there.
Unfortunately for me, my next opponent Tom Edwards wasn’t going to let me continue my winning streak. He was extremely fast and not scared to attack. The match started off fine with me grabbing a two point lead, but it didn’t take long for Edwards to tie it up and take a lead that he wouldn’t look back on. He was good at drawing out my attacks and hitting me with a counter attack to the arm. I was hesitant to fully attack because of this but I kept finding the timing to go so it resulted in me not fully committing to my attacks and impaling myself on his tip. The only thing I was successful on was drawing out his attacks and hitting him with a counter attack. After a few of those he realized that he shouldn’t come forward and that forced me to play into his game. I tried to rally points against him, but he was very dangerous. He won pretty convincingly at 15-11.
I was really sad when I lost. I felt that I had let my parents down. They had traveled all the way out to Scotland to see me compete and I wanted to make it worth their while. I had failed and that was hard for me to swallow. My parents reassured me that they weren’t let down and they were still very excited that I finished 6th at Commonwealth, but it still didn’t change how I felt. I had to sleep on the defeat before I felt any better. Even though I was upset with my result, I was still so honoured to have my parents come out and watch me compete. They had brought the poster in the picture above that was wishing me good luck from all of my friends and supports back home in Canada. It was a very touching moment to feel that much love and support.
I can safely say that regardless of my result, the Commonwealth Championships was a very rewarding and humbling experience. This is one that I will be able to draw on for the rest of my life. It meant a lot to have my biggest supporters there cheering me on, and it only fueled my motivation to make Rio a reality.