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Max makes his duel role work

PUBLISHED: 13:31 10 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:21 24 August 2010

By Ben Pearce A TEENAGE Brent fencer has been selected to represent England after coming second in a national competition, following his bronze medal in the London Youth Games. Multi-talented sportsman Max Woollard lives in Cranhurst Road in Willesden and

By Ben Pearce

A TEENAGE Brent fencer has been selected to represent England after coming second in a national competition, following his bronze medal in the London Youth Games.

Multi-talented sportsman Max Woollard lives in Cranhurst Road in Willesden and represents Highgate School in both their cricket and football 'A' teams.

The 13-year-old also turns out for his local cricket club, South Hampstead, and went for trials at county level with Middlesex.

But, while he is comfortable with both a ball at his feet and a bat in his gloves, Woollard is most deadly when he is holding a sword.

"It all started at my first school, Mulberry House," he explained. "I just watched a couple of movies - I think it was A Knight's Tale, it was just generally watching films which involved swordplay.

"And my school PE teacher Matthew Bamford just supported me. He's just always been there, he was more of a fitness coach who was a good friend of mine and I just kept in touch with him and he's helped me to where I am now.

"I really enjoy fencing and I'm good at it. It came quite naturally to me, I think it's just watching it at a young age - it interested me."

Woollard is a member of both Fighting Fit and Salle Paul, which is based at William Ellis School, Camden, and also boasts Great British Olympian Richard Kruse as one of its members.

He is now coached by Cuban international Leo Suarez, who spotted his talent at Camden Fencing Club and took him to Fighting Fit.

Like Kruse, Woollard competes in the individual foil discipline, although he admits his choice of event was effectively due to a lack of options.

"My very first club only did foil properly, so I only really knew about foil for quite a long while," he admitted.

"But I think in the foil more skill is needed because it's lot more technical and there's a lot more rules."

Woollard is only starting the new school year in Year 9, but he has already burst onto the junior fencing scene and stated his intentions with a third place finish for Brent alongside Matteo Paolini and Harry Bird and Mark Howe in June.

Then he attended the annual England Youth Championships in Reading, finishing second and qualifying for England under-15 selection as one of the top four finishers.

"I've been doing quite well in all my other competitions so I went along and came second, and I was happy with that," he said. "There were 48 in that competition from all over the country, all the people who are quite good.

"I was surprised that I came second but I thought I had a good chance of coming in the top four."

That silver medal in Reading has opened up a world of opportunities, and Woollard is well aware of the perks that come with being an England fencer.

"I'm going to France in the spring for the Paris Marathon, which is good," he enthused, "but also it means that we get some stripes down our breeches which says that we represent England - it's all about the stripes.

"And I'm going to Poland for a training camp, which I went on last year, with a coach and a couple of other people who have been picked."

Woollard takes fencing seriously and practises four times a week but, while he has thought about the Olympics, he is wary of putting pressure on himself at such a young age and doesn't want to lose the love of the sport.

"I'd like to get to the Olympics but I'd just like to continue representing England really, going to more countries just for fun," he said. "I just need to keep training, keep going and keep proving myself.

"2012 would be too early anyway, 2016 if I was to get into it would be more likely because fencers are normally picked earlier. They actually fence at the age of 21 at the Olympics or around that because there's so much training to be done."

That may be a long way off, but if Woollard continues to develop on the international scene he seems destined for a bright future in fencing - providing he isn't offered even more stripes on his kit from a football or cricket coach, that is.


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