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The Lancaster Open established itself on the fencing calendar last year as a well organised, fun event, and it certainly continued that success this year. With 68 individual entrants across six different disciplines, entries were up on last year, naturally raising the standard of competition, with several of the athletes competing having experience at international level.
Run by Lancaster University Fencing Club and taking place over two days, Saturday and Sunday at the end of Week 1, the competition encompassed all three weapons for both genders. The first event on the Saturday was the men’s foil, which showcased a high level of talent, including returning champion Celyn Lewis, who after the poules looked like he would be a serious contender to win the event again. However, when he met his Welsh compatriot George Dolan in the quarterfinals, Dolan had either ideas and convincingly put an end to Lewis’ run. The semi finals pitched Dolan against one of the top 10 under 17 fencers in the country, Thomas Philips-Langley, and York University fencer Michael Higgs against former British junior international fencer Sam Brougham. Higgs and Dolan were the underdogs, but Dolan managed to pull off an upset to set up a meeting with Brougham in the final. When the pressure of fencing on the finals piste kicked in, Brougham showed his class and dominated Dolan, who could not score even a single touch on a way to a comprehensive 15-0 defeat.
The next event to start was men’s sabre, with 16 entrants, including Lancaster University Fencing Club international competitors, Patrick Jennings and John Simmons. The two best friends fought their way through opposite sides of the bracket to have a repeat of last year’s final. This year Jennings managed to get revenge on Simmons from last year, leading the nail-biting fight to an incredibly close 15-13.
The third event of the day was women’s epée, featuring Hannah Lawrence, currently ranked number two on the senior rankings list, as well as returning champion Eleanor Akers. Unsurprisingly Lawrence took the victory, beating Akers in the final, with Lancaster’s own Claire Starr performing very well to take bronze.
Sunday was also a good day for Starr, who took gold in women’s sabre beating defending champion Eleanor Akers in a grudge match repeat of last year’s final. Akers still managed to earn a medal in all three weapons, when she added bronze in women’s foil to her silver medals in epée and sabre. However this year in the women’s foil victor was 14 year old Alice Watson who emerged victorious over Sophie Peake in the final.
The largest event of the weekend, men’s epée, saw 33 entries and produced some of the most exciting matches of the entire weekend. Last year’s winner Chris Heaps tore through the bracket and looked set to take his second gold, until his unstoppable force was met by the immovable object of Nicholas Murphy in the final. In a tense fight to end the weekend’s fencing, Murphy managed to overcome Heaps to take gold and glory.
The event was a huge success and greatly enjoyed by all involved. With it being smoothly run, an increasing number of entrants and incredibly high standard of fencing, the Lancaster Open is cementing its place as a must-go to competition on the British fencing calendar.