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Fighting spirit
  1. Clare Halsted
  1. London

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    Fencing is addictive, probably more so than many sports. I started at the age of 10, with bamboo sticks at school in Singapore. At 14, in my first competition, the British Junior Schoolgirls, I reached the semifinal but won the style prize—a cup that outclassed the winner's trophy. That was it, and for the next 13 years I trained hard: technical lessons from my coach, fighting practice at the club, footwork sessions, circuit training for strength, running for stamina and the competition circuit for tactical experience, and those oh so satisfying victories, with a few medals thrown in along the way plus a great social life.

    I enjoy the fights: permission to be aggressive in a controlled and safe way against all sorts of male and female opponents. I love the unique combination of physical skill, mental agility, fitness, and competitive toughness that produces winners, and the excitement of defeating a difficult adversary through speed and guile. Individual lessons, with their infinite variety of moves involving hand, arm, feet, body, and brain, demand concentration and hard work from both the fencer and the coach. This special relationship is vital to success in a way that is unique to fencing.

    Now, having enjoyed my first international career while a student, first of biochemistry then of medicine, I am competing again with the British Veterans Team, so it's back to the running and the gym. My stamina and reactions gratifyingly improve as I train, and beating the younger fencers annoys them no end.

    This time around, although the fencing is serious, the events are sociable, without the emotional extremes and stress of Olympic sport. It's becoming addictive again!

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