Category: Athletes

  • James Darvin’s Duel Indentity

    “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.”…

  • James Davis: London fencer on weight loss and US move

    “I was 132 kilos. I was always a big lad. But that didn’t stop me being good,” Davis, who turned 23 at the start of this month, told BBC London.

    “The speed of my hand was good. It’s a sport where you can learn the basics whatever size you are.

    “I always knew I had it in me, I always knew I could do it, but perhaps some people around me didn’t. Perhaps when they lost to me they would think ‘how did I lose to this big kid’.”

    When the World Championships begin in Kazan on Tuesday, hopes are high that Davis can go on to become the first Briton to make it onto the podium in the event since 1965.

    While being overweight on the junior circuit might not have been a barrier to success, to really make it in the sport Davis realised he had to prioritise fencing over food.

    Great Britain fencer James Davis:

    “There is no way someone my size could have made it onto the senior circuit. I had to lose the weight. But I learnt so much in those fat days that is still relevant today.”

    “I was technically very good but the fitness wasn’t there. I would get to a certain point and then I would start to die,” he said.

    “I had to make a choice. Do I want to be successful in this sport? The answer was yes. so I had to lose this weight.

    “I lost it through working with my strength and conditioning coach Jon Cree at Middlesex University, who were supporting me on their scholarship scheme when I was not part of the World-Class programme.

    “I started eating well, cut out all the rubbish and just started drinking water. Since I’ve turned professional I’ve trained every day and it pays off.

    “There is no way someone my size could have made it onto the senior circuit, but it’s a sport that does offer something for everyone who is starting out.

    “I’d encourage anyone to give it a go. I learnt so much in those fat days that is still relevant today.”

    Last month at the European Championships in Strasbourg, Davis, who nowadays stands at 6ft 4in (1.94m) and weighs 98kg (15st 6lbs), beat Russia’s Alexey Cheremisinov 15-11 in the foil final.

    It was his first championship gold medal and his country’s first European title.

    While Britain’s Gwendoline Neligan originally won European gold back in 1933, that event in Budapest was later re-classified as a World Championships and Neligan was awarded the world title instead.

    Davis, who grew up and lived in Barnet until the end of last year, puts his recent success down to his relocation to San Francisco.

    Last November he moved out to California to train with some of the top-ranked US fencers.

    Davis continued: “Immediately I thought ‘wow, something’s working here’.

    “Training is amazing out there, the guys are incredible. They are world class and they have such a big set-up with so many talented youngsters coming through.

    “I am doing two training sessions a day, that’s 10 to 12 matches a day, which is a lot. I am smashing the sessions.

    “I can get four to five left-handers to fight against which is something we really struggle with in most countries. They have got an abundance of them.

    “There is so much talent to train with.”

    Former GB foil coach Ziemek Wojciechowski continues to work with Davis as his personal coach and has travelled to San Francisco too.

    “Ziemek has taught me so much and we’ve both learnt so much in the US,” Davis added.

    “My footwork has changed a bit, where my hand is has changed a bit and I’m just moving in different ways.

    “It’s made a big difference to my fencing. I wouldn’t have won the Euros without being there.”

    “I had fenced him two months before in a Grand Prix and won 15-12. He won at the Olympics because he had already been there before.

    “He knew how to deal with it. You only learn that from being there.

    “The world number ones are there for a reason. They can deal with that pressure.

    “I would love to go to Rio with all that experience under my belt because I will know how to deal with it. But we have to qualify first.”

    So as he prepares for this week’s World Championships and hopefully another successful step on the route to Rio, what is he enjoying most about life Stateside?

    “The help and support of everyone I am training with,” Davis says.

    “They have no reason to help but everyone does. That, and the food.

    “The food is amazing. I have to be careful though – I don’t want to go back to the fat old days.”…