• Sixth Form
  • Sport
In Focus - Millfield Fencer Evie Colyer

Year 11 student Evie Colyer is a key member of the Millfield Fencing programme and the Girls in Sport Committee. We sat down with Evie to discuss her fencing journey and to discover some things about fencing that you may not know. 

How long have you been at Millfield?   

I joined Millfield in Year 9 so I’m currently in my third year at the school. I’m in the process of completing my GCSEs in Spanish, Music, Religious Studies and Geography alongside the core subjects. 

How and why did you get into fencing? 

I’ve been fencing now for nine years in total, as I was fencing in Bath before I joined Millfield. I first started fencing simply because I needed a club on a Thursday afternoon and I thought fencing sounded like a cool club to join! As I began to participate in fencing more, I realised the fact that it’s not a mainstream sport means that there is a massive tight-knit community that you can be a part of, which was a big appeal as that’s not always the case in the more widely played sports. I have found a great community in Millfield Fencing. 

For those that don’t know, could you explain the different types of fencing? 

People may not know that there are three different types of fencing: Epee, Foil and Sabre, all of which use different swords! Within Epee, you have a tip on the sword, a larger guard and the whole body of your opponent is the target. With Foil there is still a tip on your sword, but you have a smaller guard and you only have the upper torso as a target. Sabre is more classic — if you are watching a movie it would most likely be Sabre that they’re using to represent Fencing! Sabre uses a big guard around the hand, and you have to strike your opponent around the head, arms, torso and glove.  

My main discipline is Foil because I think it's the most challenging! 

Are there skills that are required more so for Foil than the other disciplines? 

Foil requires you to combine timing, accuracy and priority. For Sabre and Foil you need priority, so if I'm coming forward, I have priority to try and hit my opponent. For Epee, you don’t need priority you can get hit whenever which requires a very different skillset to the other two disciplines. 

What do you like most about the Millfield Fencing programme?   

I think the best thing about the fencing programme is that they’re open to change; the coaches are very adaptable and listen to the students when we have suggestions or requests. The structure of the squad sessions are often changeable, making them longer or shorter depending on what the students think that they need at that particular time, working in tandem with our strength and conditioning programme. My fencing programme has changed quite a lot since I started at Millfield to fit my needs as a student athlete. I also love that we get lots of chances to go to competitions at home and abroad; I have competitions in January in Paris and Sweden where I’ll travel with the Millfield Fencing coaches. 

What training programme do you follow? 

The training schedule is quite busy! In terms of fencing practice, I train five times a week in total at school, made up of three squad sessions and then two one-to-one sessions with my coach, while I also take part in fencing sessions in Bristol. We have strength and conditioning training alongside that, which for me is split into one personal gym session and one group gym session. My fencing and strength and conditioning coaches talk to each other and create plans of what muscle groups I should be training and the different types of movements that will help me. I find this really helps a lot with my performance. 

What is your favourite sporting achievement/memory at Millfield? 

My favourite achievement would be when I won the all-three-weapon award at the Public Schools Fencing Championships in London. My individual accolade coincided with the school becoming Public School Fencing overall champions for the ninth year in a row, which made it particularly special. 

Do you play any other sports, and, if so, how does the school support you with balancing that alongside your fencing and schoolwork? 

I play hockey alongside my fencing commitments. I have lots of conversations with my coaches and they look at my timetable and calendar and adapt it for me so I can fit in both alongside my schoolwork. It’s such a valuable support system as it means I don’t have to worry or stress about what I can and can’t do. The coaches are adaptable and good at communicating so it helps me keep on top of everything. 

Being a key member of Millfield’s Girls in Sport committee, have you found anything in fencing that you’ve seen change or things that you think should change? 

I think the coaches are now more open to the conversations that were previously quite awkward. Due to the staff workshops and talks that have taken place, I think that everyone feels like they can be more open discussing issues that affect girls in sport. During my next two years at Millfield I think we should be talking more about injuries, specifically in girls sport. As we’ve seen across various sports in the last year, particularly with the Lionesses for example, the proliferation of injuries in women's sport is something that needs addressing. It's something that we’ve started to talk about with the coaches in relation to our training. 

We also discuss the issue of injuries and training programmes in Girls in Sport meetings and how best to get that across to coaches to ensure that we are collaborating in the best way possible. 

What different fencing competitions are you currently taking part in? 

I have British ranking competitions, which depending on where you place, award you points which contribute to your ranking either getting boosted or lowered. I also compete in general qualifying competitions for larger events like the British Youth competitions in March. The ranking tournaments take place around once a fortnight, which means that I can get regular experience of competing alongside my training programme.  

What are your sporting hopes for the future? 

After completing Sixth Form at Millfield I hope to go to a university with a strong fencing programme. Hopefully, I'll be selected into the junior Great Britain squad as I move up from cadet and then eventually compete in the World Championships. 

What's the process of moving from cadets to Great Britain? 

Cadets is the U17s age category; I've just been fencing for U17 Great Britain team in the Cadet Circuit Manchester. Soon I'll move up to the junior category, which is U20, so hopefully I'll be in the Junior Great Britain squad within the next year or so.