Fencing has not been a sport that is traditionally followed in Jamaica, so not many people would be aware that in October 2013, Ohio-based Jamaican, Allison Miller won the nation’s first gold medal for fencing in the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Championships in Guatemala. Soon thereafter, in November, Jamaica then won another gold medal in the London International Open 2013, through Caitlin Nicole Chang, who resides in Britain.
It was only recently, in April 2012, that the Jamaica Fencing Federation was incorporated in Jamaica by President and founder, Jamaican born James McBean from Spanish Town, who competed previously in the American college system making it to the top 15 in the US in his last two years of college. The federation was subsequently admitted as a member to the International Fencing Federation FIE in November 2012. Since then, and with the support of the Jamaica Olympic Association, McBean has been working hard to introduce the sport of fencing to Jamaicans. His team consists of Christopher Samuda as advisor, Kevin Jackson, secretary, Marc Ramsay and Laurel Smith as consultants.
Photo courtesy of the International Fencing Federation FIE
As the JFF visit high schools throughout the island, demonstrating the sport to students, McBean has been very encouraged by the interest displayed. He is of the opinion that competitiveness is culturally engrained in Jamaicans at a young age, and that fencing is another avenue through which young people can demonstrate their physical and intellectual dominance of another in a a healthy way. The JFF operates from five standards of conduct: etiquette, modesty, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit. These standards McBean borrowed from his Tae Kwon Do training, and he believes them to be appropriate for today’s Jamaican youth. Fencers are forced to think and react quickly, and the sport is therefore excellent in helping young people develop acute coordination between the physical and intellectual realm.
In mid 2013, French National, Jean Pierre Riffaud joined the JFF as the organization’s first fencing coach. Based in Mandeville, Riffaud became a part of JFF’s pilot program – the development of the Manchester Fencing Club, the first fencing club in Jamaica’s history. At present, Riffaud is the only coach on the island, but plans are being made for additional coaches to come to Jamaica. A club has also been established at Wolmer’s Boys School in Kingston. The students are able to make use of equipment donated by the FIE to Jamaica.
Photo Shannon S. Evans
The establishment of the JFF has allowed fencers of Jamaican heritage all around the world to represent Jamaica in their favoured sport.
In 2013, 14 year old Tia Simms-Lymn, a British born fencer of British and Jamaican parentage, was the first person to represent Jamaica in fencing on an international level. Even before the JFF existed, Lymn had been seeking a way to represent the country of her ancestry, although she was already ranked no. 1 in Britain in her age group. She was therefore thrilled to be first on board once the JFF had been admitted to the FIE. Her participation is also key in demonstrating to Jamaica what can be accomplished on an international level. Lymn has been fencing for the last 7 years. She has been British Epee Champion in her age group for the last three years and in 2011 was double British Champion, in the Foil and the Epee. The Foil and the Epee are two of the three categories of fencing weaponry, the third being Saber.
In February 2014, she represented Jamaica in Guatemala at the Pan American Championships. And in March 2014, she competed in the largest and most prestigious under-15 fencing competition in the world, the Challenge Wratislavia, in Wrokaw Poland, where over 2,000 fencers participated. Once again, Jamaica came out on top with the silver medal, with Lymn beating out previously undefeated top seeds.
Lymn then flew to Plovdiv, Bulgaria where she competed at the Cadet World Championships in April 2014.
In addition to these three outstanding ladies, a number of fencers residing in the USA, England, Germany and Wales are also representing Jamaica at local levels.
The JFF looks forward to training new members for their club, here in Jamaica, as well as encouraging fencers around the world who are of Jamaican heritage and who would like to represent the country to do so. Allison Miller, Caitlin Nicole Chang, and Tia Simms Lynn are all hoping to qualify to compete at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil.
You can give them your support and keep up-to-date on their activities at their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/JamaicanFencing