FENCING has been part of the Olympic orogramme since the launch of the Modern Games in 1896 and has been part of every Olympics since. Women competed for the first time at Paris in 1924.
Britain has won just one gold medal courtesy of Gillian Sheen (see below) in 1956. Britain's women have also won three silvers, all in the individual foil event. All the British men's five silvers have been in either the individual or team épée event. Bill Hoskins in 1964 was Britain's last fencing medallist.
Britain's Gold Medallist:
Born: 21 August 1928, Willesden, London, England
Olympics competed in: 3 (1952, 1956, 1960)
Olympic medals: 1956 Gold - Foil (individual)
Fifty years after Britain competed in her first Olympic fencing tournament they won their first and, to date, only gold medal thanks to Gillian Sheen, a dental surgeon from University College Hospital in London, who won the individual foil title at Melbourne in 1956. The Australians reckoned she only won gold because she had strong wrists from pulling teeth out!
She took up fencing while at school in Kent and four years after winning the British schools title in 1945 she won her first senior British title.
Whilst studying at London University she won five consecutive University titles and in 1951 she won a gold medal at the World University Championships.
She competed in her first Olympics in 1952 but was eliminated in the second round of the foil event. But four years later she was the surprise gold medallist.
She defended her Olympic title in 1960 as the reigning Commonweath Games champion but she was eliminated in the second round at the Rome Games.
She retired from competitive fencing in 1963 and that same year married Bob Donaldson and moved to New York with him where she continued her dental practice.
Gillian Sheen put down part of her success to the powers of steak, watercress and a glass of burgundy after a hard training session. Gillian may not had been awarded an OBE or MBE for services to her sport like modern days Olympic champions, but she was honoured by appearing ... on a Dominican Republic postage stamp!
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