Looking back at Fernwood's Sword Clubs Ed Howlett Year to remember;
At the start of the season, Ed's personal coach, Paul Sibert, told Ed that there was no expectation or pressure or even target from him to get to the Euros or the Worlds - it would be "nice to have" but that the main aim was to continue developing as a fencer across the board and concentrate on longer term development. Ed has certainly worked hard and his footwork, timing, distance, bladework, fitness, tactical and strategic skills have improved according to plan over the last year. So the news on the afternoon of 23rd December that he'd been selected as one of 4 fencers to be part of the GB U17 men's foil team at the European Championships in Plovdiv next March was the icing on the cake.
So apart from that, how was 2016?
U17 competitions :
These were the main focus. Ed was reasonably pleased with a 7th place in last season's U17 Championships (with an older year competing) in February, but 2nd in this season's in July was excellent, especially as they took place just after GCSEs. 3rd place in the U16 British Youth Championships the start of May was good, too, with Ed losing 9-10 in the semi final to the winner and fencing with a back injury to boot. He also won a bronze medal at the Leon Paul U17 ranking competition in September, from 73 fencers. Ed finished last season in 15th place, started the current season in 7th and after the first competition has been ranked nationally from 2nd through to 4th.
Internationally, Ed has been selected for all GB U17 nominated internationals this season - so, Budapest, Vienna, Cabries and (coming up next month) Pisa. Highlights of these were winning all of his poules at Budapest and then being unlucky enough to come up against an extraordinarily good Hungarian fencer - but finishing 65/251. A L64 place at Cabries, following a dramatic 9-8 L128 win, from 206 fencers, gave him valuable GB ranking points. Finally, 12th place from 140 fencers in the Manchester International Cadet in October was very pleasing.
U20 competitions :
These are obviously tougher than U17 competitions. L16 placings in last season's U20 Championships in February, this season's U20 Championships in July and at the Newcastle U20 ranking competition in October were pleasing. Selection for GB in the Eden Cup in December proved a very useful introduction to U20 international competition, with V2D4 in the poule - only a couple of points from V4D2 and a DE against one of the world's top cadets - Ed finishing 11th out the 20th GB juniors fencing in the competition. It was also nice to be selected as a reserve for the U20 World Cup competition in Aix en Provence in January. Ed's highest U20 ranking this season has been 14th, which he'll be looking to.build on next year
Senior competitions :
Senior competitions are really for extra sparring - though Ed is currently ranked 30th, his highest ever senior ranking. Highlights amongst this year's competitions have been L16 placings in the very strong Birmingham International Open and the Welsh Open. He won a silver medal at the Luton Open (losing in the final to a South African international) and a bronze medal at the Uhlmann Trophy (losing to a Russian fencer). He also picked up a few best cadet/U18 medals. And made L8 in the Bocholt Inflight Challenge in Germany, losing only 14-15 to Mexican New Yorker, Diego Marroquin.
Team competitions :
This was a year for more team competitions than usual. Ed was selected for the East Midlands senior team in the Senior Winton in July and more than held his own. He also fenced for one of the Sheffield Buccaneers teams in the Yorkshire Team Foil and won a silver medal. Internationally, Ed was part of a GB team in Vienna which beat Slovakia 45-34 and had a personal success in the team's 41-45 defeat to Roumania, beating top cadet Silviu Rosu 7-5 and hammering Alexandru Sirb 11-5. He was also part of GB U17 men's foil's best team success in years at Cabries, coming 6th from 45 teams, including a fantastic 43-41 win over Singapore in L16. Ed also contributed very strongly to a 10th placing from 19th for Sheffield Buccaneers II in the GB Senior Team Championships. Highlights for Ed included wins against a Commonwealth medalist and former (now Veteran!) Olympians, plus a quite stunning 17-5 virtuoso performance against a hapless London fencer. The year concluded with a super Cadet Winton for the East Midlands, with Ed (and teammate James Rutherford) each winning 23 fights from 27, resulting in winning 8/9 matches and a second place.
This is actually the most important part. Ed has benefited from his personal coach, Paul Sibert, coming over to Fernwood Sword Club most weeks this year to give him (and James Rutherford) lessons. Previously, their lessons were in Nottingham and were more intermittent. Ed has also benefited from switching twice weekly training in Nottingham to Sheffield Buccaneers, with a more elite level of sparring and also input from the head coach there, Adam Blight. Finally, the free fitness centre pass from Newark and Sherwood District Council has enabled Ed to improve his fitness levels in various ways - and this has made a demonstrable difference to his competition performance.