“It’s hard to say really. If you were to go off my season, then probably. I haven’t had the best of seasons after the move to America. I’m just getting used to the new setup, so as I hadn’t medalled or anything in any tournament, and I needed this result to stay in the world top 16, I had to do as well as I did last season or better. However, if you look at my results through my career, I’ve already had a bronze medal in
I would have always put myself on to win, but I was just focusing on winning the match in front of me – and it worked, so I can’t complain.”
European bronze in 2013 and winning the St Petersburg Grand Prix were your previous highs, but this is your first “big victory”. How nice is it to get over that hurdle?
“It’s nice to win events like the St Petersburg Grand Prix, but at the end of the day, those tournaments are all building up to championships and to get your rankings, so to actually win a title is what we’re after and that’s what I want to keep doing. I’m just overjoyed. It’s what I’ve worked towards, and to say you believe you can do it and actually doing it are two very different things. It still feels strange to actually say I’m European champion. Very few people can say that, and no one from Great Britain can!”
You moved to America last year to help your development. What have been the major differences because it’s clearly had an effect?
“It’s a very long season, and I’ve done a lot of flying there. It is tough but you get used to it and you get into a routine. It’s the training really, that’s the big difference. The training is just top level and these guys out here are excellent. I’ve been training the last few days with the whole team, and we’ve had the world champion training with us, and everyone here is in the top 16. In the British team, I am the only one. So it’s been great training out here. I’m just adding more strings to my bow, they’ve got a very different style and it’s really helped me at the Europeans. The level, the professionalism and this constant work every day training with the top guys has paid off.”
Is it just a case of honing your skills then or are you reworking your whole technique?
“It’s a little bit about my technique, but I’d say it’s about small gains. You’re looking at where you can twist things, where you’re off a little bit, where your footwork is slightly off and stuff like that. For me, one of the guys out here has got the best footwork in the world, so things like that help me to learn and add to what I’ve already got.”
You’re number one in Great Britain, and nobody is really pushing you right now. Is it frustrating that there isn’t a young pool of talent over here?
“I’m young as well to be fair, I came through in 2012. I wasn’t one that was supposed to make it, it was a team virtually set up from 2011 and all the guys my age were there as training partners for the main guys. So it is a little bit frustrating that we have a little pool of fencers. Unfortunately fencing’s not big in the UK so it’s very hard to work with the numbers we have. It’s still a very isolated and elitist sport and until we can break those barriers and get into the state schools, it’s always going to be like that. It is hard, but those that have the talent will come through. There’s nothing stopping the next group pushing for places ahead of 2016 or for the world champs, and we need that. It’s the only way you can do better, by being pushed, so I hope it happens.”
The World Championships are next up in Russia this week. Are you expecting to be a marked man now you’re European champion?
“Um, not really. On the circuit now, I’ve been known for a few years. It’s such a small group of fencers that we all know each other, and after I won St Petersburg, people took notice of me more. I’ve been in the top 16 for the whole season, so believe me, every time you’re out there, people want to beat you. If you can knock out a top 16 fencer, you open up your section of the draw. There’s no reason that people will want to beat me more now – maybe it will make them more nervous. I hope so, but to me I’m just going to focus like I did in the Euros. It’s about getting through my first round, and going from there. Too often, people look too far ahead and get too nervous about losing too early and whatever. I’ll just deal with whatever the draw is.”
Are you feeling more confident coming in as a European Champion though?
“There are still the nerves and still the confidence. It’s always going to be there because it’s a part of sport. I feel good, I’ve been training really hard and I feel like I’m going to be in great shape. You want to give yourself as much a chance to win as you can in every tournament, and I feel like I am doing that. So yeah, I’ll be confident going in. Whatever happens, though, I’m happy with where I am right now.”