Fencing: Scots rule piste as Cook raises profile of sport

Keith Cook,  right, runs the fastest-growing fencing club in Scotland
Keith Cook, right, runs the fastest-growing fencing club in Scotland
Have your say

Scotland may be underachieving out on the field when it comes to both football and rugby internationals – a frustration that stretches the length and breadth of the nation.

However, last weekend’s Scotland v Poland fencing clash produced a performance and result that suggests there is hope in the world of sword fighting.

Capital fencing star Keith Cook, the five times Commonwealth Games medallist and 2010 British champion, spearheaded an ambition to display a top international match with World Cup winners – Polish duo Radoslaw Glonek and Pawel Kawiecki – answering his call.

After Cook and team-mate Ed Jefferies emerged with a 40-38 victory at the Roxburghe Hotel last Saturday, the 31-year-old was thrilled with the outcome, and the overall organisation of the event from start to finish.

“These guys (Glonek and Kawiecki) are world class athletes.” Cook said. “I called in a favour from them as I have been training with them for so many years.

“When I asked them if there was any chance we could do a Scotland v Poland match, they jumped at the opportunity. We were going into the match as underdogs but I always just think about each hit as it comes really and don’t think about winning or losing. Fortunately the Scottish team won this time around, which is great.

“The whole event ran incredibly smoothly. There was a lot of preparation required to run an event like this with trying to agree a date and venue.

“A lot of people were impressed seeing fencing first hand and just how fast and agile you have to be, so it was a good night out for those that came along.

“This is just the first of many more events we hope to run, but it will just be on an annual basis.”

Cook has been running Salle Holyrood with national coach Sean Walton since June last year, the country’s fastest growing fencing club with three training sessions per week. Cook’s ambitions are encouraging to say the least, his commitment to change public perception of the sport an overriding priority, but his passion lies within nurturing the students he has at the club into top class fighters.

“A lot of people over here think it is an upper-class sport and that’s something I want to eradicate,” he said. “I want to show that anyone can do it and it doesn’t matter where you come from.

“That’s what it’s like in Poland. You see signed football tops and things like that on the walls around bars over here, but across in Poland there are photos of fencers and fencing masks and things like that.

“85 per cent of our members are under 14, so it’s really busy nights we have. We have the whole development process from foam to plastic and then metal at Salle Holyrood and the potential is there. There will also be another club opening up very shortly with a venue still to be confirmed.

“I wanted to showcase fencing at the highest level with last Saturday’s international, but also raise some funds for the club.

“We have a lot of different projects at the moment, including creating Scotland’s first wheelchair fencing club. We also want to take the kids around Britain and further afield with Gdansk in Poland one of the destinations to show just how hard they train over there.”

A renowned figure on the international circuit himself, Cook still has the aspirations of an athlete destined for further success. With three silver and two bronze Commonwealth medals won since his first 
appearance in Malaysia in 1998, Cook is ready to throw everything he has at it.

He added: “I am still training five days per week and am focused on my goals leading up to the Commonwealth Games. I’ve got a lot of international competitions in Europe and Asia and will hopefully qualify for the European and World Championships.

“I have a great team in Sean Tuff and Sean Walton and these guys give me a massive help.”