By Mark Etheridge
Continental silver medallist and South African champion fencer Juliana Barrett has had a surprisingly successful time of things at the London International Open, writes Mark Etheridge.
Based in the United States but currently studying for three months in London on a university exchange programme, Barrett came through the ranks to end with a savoured silver medal in the women’s epee division (titled the Milner-Barry Cup).
Barrett made no bones about the fact that she was competition rusty. ‘The first round, the pools, was horrible for me. I was out of practice, since I was adjusting to my new home and schooling in London and I found my mind telling my body action that it couldn’t do,’ she told Road to Rio 2016.
‘It wasn’t that I wasn’t necessarily making touches, more that I was personally becoming very frustrated with the ugliness of my technique. In the end of that round, I had lost three bouts and won three bouts.
‘In the next round, Direct Elimination, my first opponent was a youth fencer I actually already knew because she fenced for Ghana and I had met her at the Junior African Championships in Cairo last Spring. That bout was important because I was comfortable with my knowledge of her and warmed up enough to fence well and smartly without my prior frustrations.’
That victory seemed to bring new-found confidence to Barrett’s game.
‘It was amazing. I fenced the next bouts completely in the zone. I wasn’t thinking about anything but the fencing and when to do the actions necessary to hit. I was even down by five touches at certain moments, but was so calm and focused that it didn’t really faze me. It’s rare, or at least for me it is, that I can tofence completely in the zone.
‘In the final, my out of practice body finally caught up to me and I could barely hold my epee up, which was a bit embarrassing. But second place is nothing to be ashamed of and up until that bout, I felt amazing. I was seeing the situation, analysing what I needed to do, and doing it without hesitation or fear.’
In the final Barrett lost to former English fencer Caitlin Chang, now fencing for Jamaica.
And Barrett will take heart from her new-found energy. ‘I can only hope that I can take this “Zen moment” and continue competing in this mindset for my next tournament in Legnano, Italy near Milan in about a week and a half,’ she wrapped up.
Barrett will also be targeting the Commonwealth Championships that take place in Largs, Scotland next month.