When 14-year-old Hurlstone Park local Daniel Iliffe started fencing five years ago, he never expected he'd be heading to London to represent Australia at an international fencing tournament.
"I never thought I'd be travelling overseas to do this. When I heard I made the national squad I was overjoyed and started training as hard as I could," said Daniel.
"Fencing in London is going to be a fantastic experience. I'm really excited, I went to the World Championships in Dubai earlier and it was really difficult but I'm excited for the challenge."
Daniel started fencing for school sport at the suggestion of his Year 5 teacher. Three days later he was at his first session of an eight-week beginner course with the Marrickville Marauders - a not-for-profit fencing club run at PCYC Marrickville.
He has fenced in tournaments representing the Marauders, his school Sydney Secondary College Balmain Campus, and NSW. Now, he's a member of the national men's sabre fencing team and has been nominated to represent Australia in the junior division at the Commonwealth Fencing Championships in London in August.
"It was really a stroke of luck - my school was one of the only schools where they were offering fencing in primary school. So I tried it and fell in love with it from day one," said Daniel. "I really enjoy the strategy, it's different every single time you fence; it's never the same."
"I really enjoy the strategy, it's different every single time you fence."- Daniel Iliffe
The Commonwealth Fencing Championships have been held every four years since 1974 in the same year as the Commonwealth Games - which will kick off in Birmingham, England later this month. Fencing is an optional sport in the Games and was last included in Scotland in 1970.
Two other Marrickville Marauders club members - 16-year-old Marrickville local Gaia Hardge and 19-year-old Leo Kershaw-Kostic, also from Marrickville - will join Daniel in representing Australia in the senior division at the Commonwealth Championships.
"My older brother started fencing when I was 5 and when I turned 8 I started fencing myself," said Gaia, who has competed abroad in Dubai and Thailand and won the gold medal in this year's NSW State Junior Championships."
"I love the community - in my club and state and national teams, it feels like a second family.
"I feel pretty good about how far I've come but there's still room for improvement and I'm absolutely ecstatic to head over to London - it's two or three weeks straight of competition. It'll be lots of fun."
Leo, who has been fencing for about 12 years, has competed on the cadet circuit in Asia and was one of the youngest competitors in a major Asian championship in South Korea last month.
"I managed to make top 50 there, which I was very pleased with for my first international comp. It was really informative about what I was doing well and what I needed to work on," he said. "Fencing is a very active and very controlled sport. I love how multifaceted it is. It's not just a technical sport, not just an athletic sport. I'm super excited for the Commonwealth Championships."
The Marrickville Marauders are currently fundraising for new gear including electric jackets and masks. "Everyone at the club is super nice and we have a fantastic coach. I say everyone should give it a go," said Daniel.
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