It was a weekend of mixed fortunes for the IC fencing club at the BUCS individual championships in Nottingham. Held annually, the competition brings together the best university fencers from around the country. Last year Imperial had three podium finishes, with Hannah Bryars taking the gold in women’s foil. Could we do better this time?

The sun had hardly risen on Friday morning as the fencers crammed into a union minibus and made their way north to Nottingham Uni for the first two events : Men’s epee and Women’s sabre. Stumbling off the bus and into the sports hall, the competitors still managed to shine, with Marcello Colombino building on his silver medal from last year by emerging as top seed after poules. Fellow 1st-team epeeist Ed Gilhead also got off to a promising start, and hopes were high going into the knockout rounds. However, after a relatively easy progress through the early stages, they both faltered in the last 16 and lost their matches by the narrowest of margins, 15-14. Ultimately, Colombino finished 9th and Gilhead 16th, with Chris Gilliam also finishing 39th out of 118 participants (not bad for a foilist!). At the same time, Clare Harding grabbed the 17th spot in the Women’s Sabre. No podium finishes, then, but a good effort by Imperial on the first day.

Saturday dawned, and the trusty minibus ferried the bleary-eyed bunch to the hall for the second day of competing. It was the men’s foil and women’s epee this time, with ICFC providing 6 foilists and 2 epeeists. Gilliam breezed through his poule and topped the seedings, displaying some very good fencing in the process. The other foilists also posted fine performances, with both Rob Shaw and Colin Auclair winning all their matches and no-one losing more than two. Unfortunately this success in the poules did not translate very well to the direct eliminations as Ed Collier, Indy Leclercq and Alex Morris all got knocked out in the round of 64; Auclair in the 32 and Shaw and Gilliam in the 16. A disappointing result for the foilists, then, who were hoping for more.

In the epee, Helen Pennington was knocked out in the 128 and club president Emily Bottle in the 32. Another day, and still no medals! The mood was decidedly dampened after the day’s matches and the Saturday night Nottingham pub crawl was perfectly timed to lift everyone’s spirits! Of course, the people fencing on Sunday didn’t partake in the alcohol-fuelled revelry and were all bright-eyed and alert on Sunday as they took to the pistes. Six girls were competing for Imperial in the Women’s foil and three guys for the Men’s Sabre. After two fruitless days, the last two events brought some promising results in the poules, and before too long, there were three foilists in the last eight and two sabreurs in the semis!

Alice Mitchell got knocked out in a close quarter-final match; Outi Supponen and the ever-dependable Hannah Bryars made it to the semis, meaning Imperial were guaranteed at least four medals…Unfortunately, kit problems led to Supponen’s defeat in her semi-final : the all-Imperial final was not to be. In the end, though, Bryars came through with her usual mix of style and grit to clinch the gold for the fourth year running.Adding to the medals, Maiyuran Ratneswaran banished the demons of last year’s Staircase Incident with a convincing 1st place, while Henry Gann confirmed Imperial’s domination of the day with a bronze medal.

One medal more than last year, and a great time had by all : bring on next year!