Events

Piers Gilliver Wheelchair Fencing the Road to Rio

A lot has happened since I first picked up a weapon in August 2010 when I decided to 'have a go' at fencing at my local club, had I known that within 2yrs I would compete in my first international and within 6yrs, hold a World No1 ranking and a Paralympic Silver medal I am sure I would find it all rather unbelievable but the moment I started, I knew fencing was the sport for me and so as I continue to train and prepare for Tokyo 2020, I will do my best to share some of my experiences with you but I guess it would help to know a little of my journey that far and start at the beginning of a very busy six years !

I had always been aware of fencing as a sport and was interested in trying it before my disability took hold, but I was horse riding at the time, my brother was training hard to become a classical dancer and so between us, my family time was fairly busy and so I never really got around to fencing.
In 2007, I lost my mobility and after a period of adjustment, in 2010 I decided to look for a sport, I found Wheelchair Fencing and I have never looked back!

In January 2011, I attended my first training weekend with the British Disabled Fencing Association, met a great bunch of people and thoroughly enjoyed being able to train more intensively. As someone relatively new to disability, it was great to meet and train with others where disability was just accepted.

I continued to train weekly at my local club and once a month with the BDFA and in March, had my debut competition, in March it gave me a taste of competitive fencing and so I was thrilled to take a Silver and Bronze a couple of months later at my next event.
I continued to extend my training, visiting various clubs a week such as Wellington Swords, Cotswold Fencing, Exeter, Salle Ursa, Touche & Bath Swords.

In December 2011 I was selected onto the Talent Pathway and TASS and in April 2012, placed on the Paralympic Inspiration Programme, designed to give athletes an insight into a Paralympic games. London 2012 was a truly inspirational event, and I knew from then that I had to be a part of a Paralympic Games.

July 2012 was my first international event, August 2012 saw me selected to the Performance squad and in December 2012 I took my first international podium - Epee Bronze at the World Cup in Eger, Hungary.

2013 saw big changes for our athletes when our sport lost all of it's Uk Sport funding, so I was faced with having to make decisions about my future in fencing, for me there was no choice, I had found a sport that I seemed to have an aptitude for and loved, there was no way I was going to give that up!

With the support of my family, friends many other people, I managed to raise just enough money to continue to train up and down the country and compete.

After winning 3 back-to-back World Cup Golds in 2014 at the beginning of the Rio 2016 qualifying period, thankfully, UkSport agreed to open up funding for me through to Rio. This was a huge relief as we had exhausted all resources and were reliant on so many people being so generous with their time but with that Rio place within my grasp, I could not give in but it was an incredibly challenging time!

Next time, I will look in a little more detail at how I trained and prepared for my first Paralympic Games and how to talk about the whole games experience.

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