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Young fencer fights for funding

HIGH HOPES: Teagan dreams of competing for Team GB in the Olympics, but is urging anyone who can to donate to the cost of her training and equipment (photo: gbsylvie10)

TEAGAN WILLIAMS-STEWART is Britain’s best fencer in the under-17 category, but despite her achievements and ranking in the sport, she’s fighting for funding to achieve her dreams.

When she first took up the sport around the time of the 2012 Olympics at a taster session in her local park, her mother, Curleen, thought she would never like it – but Teagan surprised her.

After being reintroduced to the sport as she started secondary school, she began training with Newham Swords, a fencing club in her local area.

“After about three sessions [she] just sort of said, ‘Mum, I’ll stop all my other sports if you just let me fence,” Curleen told the Voice of Sport. “I love the individuality of the sport.

“It's a very physical sport but it also requires a great deal of mental agility – it's like a game of chess. It's very tactical,” Teagan said.


Despite being ranked number one in the under-17 category for the whole of Great Britain, and number three in the under-20s category, Teagan is struggling with funding.

As an independently funded athlete, she has to foot the costs of her kit, weapons and travel to competitions.

The cost is “extremely” expensive, Curleen said.

“We pay our club fees as you would at any club, but then for going away, you pay for everything – your flights, your hotel, your entry fees and so on,” she added.

As such, there has been a financial toll on the family.

“You know, we scrimp from competition to competition. We have had small pockets of help but it’s never enough to sort of fully cover everything that is needed. A new foil, a new blade, is £100,” Curleen said.

But how often does Teagan need one of those?

“It depends how often she breaks them," mum laughs.

“She broke two when she was in Rome recently so you always really need to have sort of half a dozen weapons.

Teagan achieved a silver medal, her best ever result, at a competition in Rome (photo: Niki Bruckner)

“The full set of kit, costs around about £700 and you have to keep replacing things like blades and shoes because they wear out."

Conscious of the financial impact on her mum, Teagan came up with the idea to get creative with fundraising.

In a bid to raise the money she needs to cover the costs of her participation in the European Championships, where she’s competing in individual and team events, and the World Championships in April, the 16-year-old has set up a crowdfunding campaign.

“She was the one that asked me to set up the GoFundMe page. She could see that I was stressing about how are we going to get her there so she said, ‘Mum, just set up the page, which I was reluctant to do.


“I don’t want her to be worried about it, I just want her to know that we’ll get you there somehow,” Curleen said.

The page has raised roughly half of the £2,000 target. “I'm over the moon at the number of people who have donated, it's so kind of them and we've had such lovely messages of support and encouragement. I'd like to thank them all and I hope I can get a good result,” Teagan said.

Since British Fencing lost its UK Sport world class funding after the Rio Olympics, athletes at all levels of the sport have faced financial struggle. Despite the challenges, Curleen is undeniably and unsurprisingly proud of her daughter’s achievements.

“Her achievement in Rome [Teagan took home silver, a personal best]. People keep congratulating her on that result. I’m very proud.”

She added: “I’d like for her to take it as far she can, maybe get to the Olympics."

Representing GB on the world stage is Teagan’s “ultimate goal” – but she knows she still has a way to go.

She said: “There is still so much to achieve in terms of personal development as a fencer, I feel I have a lot more to learn technically." Visit Teagan’s GoFundMe page here to find out more.

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