Award of Merit

SHIRLEY Parker, chairman and head coach of West Dorset Fencing Club, has just come back from an exciting day at the headquarters of the British Olympic Association.

She attended a special ceremony and, watched by the hierarchy of British Fencing, including Britain’s 2012 two top fencers and medal hopefuls Richard Kruse and Laurence Halstead, she received a British Fencing Association Award of Merit. Parker was one of only four people specially selected for this honour.

Unknown to her, she was nominated by Allan Jay, a former Olympic medallist and world champion, for all her energy and passion she has devoted to the founding, running and coaching of the West Dorset Fencing Club, based at the Sir John Colfox School in Bridport.

After retiring from international and national competitions in 1967, Parker founded the Ranmore Foil Club where she coached for 13 years.

Retiring down to Dorset, she was then disappointed to realise that there was no fencing club within a 50-mile radius and, spurred on by a chance encounter to choreograph a duel for a local drama group, was persuaded to found a fencing club based in Bridport.

Unpaid and undaunted, she set to work to secure a lottery grant to pay for equipment and after securing premises at the local school coached her first 16 members.

To date she has tirelessly worked at promoting the club and with much-needed help from a dedicated committee and her founder members, Parker now has a fully fledged club of adults and children who enter into individual championships each year. They also now fence with the electric jackets and body wires used for scoring in competitions.

Parker’s passion for fencing is visible everywhere as she is determined to hand on to her protégées every scrap of knowledge she has gained over the years. Her ambition is one day to see a member of her club competing in a future Olympic Games.

After the ceremony, Parker was approached for a few words on her hectic day and she was extremely generous in her praise for others.

She said: “None of this would have been possible without the help of my excellent committee and all of my club members.”

This was typical of Parker but she was thrilled and honoured to receive her award, acknowledging the appreciation of her peers and already planning how she could use the occasion to raise awareness of fencing to others.