Young fencing star, Christelle Ko, speaks to Robyn Ma about staying “en garde”.
How long have you been fencing?
I’m currently 14 years old and am in Year 9, studying at Kellett School – I took up fencing about six years ago.
Are you involved in any other sports?
I play sports such as badminton and swimming as hobbies but I’m not pursuing them as passionately as I am for fencing.
It’s an unusual sport – how did you get involved?
My brother was the one who first got me into the sport. He really enjoyed it so I began getting involved and realised that it was quite fun.
Why do you like it?
I like it because I’m good at it! And it’s also really fun. I’ve met lots of people from around the world and had tons of opportunities to meet olympians which is really nice because not many people get to do that. Meeting them is always very memorable and inspiring. I am trying my best to work hard and hopefully compete in the Olympics one day.
Tell us about the competitions you’ve taken part in?
I’ve competed all over the world. My most recent competition was the Challenge Wratislavia in Poland where I came third for the U15 Girls’ Foil category. I’ve also competed in England’s national competition, both last year and this year. I was the U14 GB Foil Champion last year. Even though I compete in different countries, most of my competitions take place in Hong Kong or around Asia and mainland China.
How often do you train?
There isn’t really a set time but usually I train four days a week and for around four hours each session. Over the summer I didn’t train as much as usual.
Is it hard to balance school and social life with your fencing lessons?
It’s not because my teachers are really supportive and they always help me. I can always ask my parents for help if I need it. And if I really can’t handle it all, I’ll just cancel my fencing lessons that week, especially when I have exams and other tests. Then I’ll just do it another day. I am able to re-arrange sessions for alternative days.
How is it that you’re able to compete in both England and Hong Kong?
I have a British passport because my parents have British citizenship, and I was born in Hong Kong. This means I am eligible to compete for both countries. However, I think I’m supposed to choose which one I want to compete for next year. I’ll probably choose Hong Kong though since I live here so it’ll be easier to compete.
Any fencing highlights?
I have loads of great memories of this sport. Winning is always a highlight but even if I lose I don’t immediately leave the arena. I like staying afterwards to watch all the different matches because the games are always really intense so I usually end up leaving at around 6 o’clock at night when the whole competition is finished.
What would you tell young fencers or anyone who might be interested in the sports? I don’t treat fencing as a competitive sport. I just like it as a hobby because it’s fun. When you’re fencing, don’t think that you have to win every time. If you’re facing a hard opponent you can’t just think that you’re going to lose or win. You just have to try your best. I never thought I would win some of my competitions. You just have to believe in yourself that you can do it.