Talented Cape teenager Kristen Matthews put Manenberg on the map recently when she placed sixth in the Senegal senior fencing championships, writes Mark Etheridge.
Matthews turned to fencing as a means to escape the tough daily life in the Cape Flats suburb and she’s gone from strength to strength.
“I love fencing especially because it allows me to be me ÔÇô it allows me to direct all my anger and frustration into one thing ÔÇô┬áenergy. Growing up in a community where the lives of people are prone to end with a bang puts strain on the lives of young people and leaves them with fear that later on turns into them taking drugs and becoming violent people. Somehow I know that God used fencing as my salvation because I know that if I wasn’t in training on a Saturday morning with my coach who works extremely hard, I’d probably never been able to stand out.
“I started fencing in 2007 with Randall Daniels at Christel House. I had tried all sporting codes that the school had to offer but didn’t follow through because they bored me. So fencing was my last option before ‘detention’ and I loved it.”
Young Matthews got to compete around the country with the help of Fencing Western Province and Christel House and after three years of fencing opened her own small club in her community.
“I found it hugely satisfying to give back to the sport, just like my coach was doing.”
She matriculated in 2010 and started a Bachelor’s degree in Sports, Recreation and Exercise Science at the University of the Western Cape but when she was invited to do a professional coaching course in fencing in Senegal she found the chance too inviting and has put her studies on hold briefly. She was the first fencing athlete to compete for UWC.
“It’s both satisfying and hard,” she said from Senegal. It’s not easy being away from home at such a young age but I understand that its for the greater good and my aim is develop sport, specifically fencing in my own country and give back to people what I’ve learnt from fencing.
Back to her fencing foray into Senegal where she finished sixth in the women’s foil, from 22 competitors. “It was held at the Senghor Stadium and it was great fun. I didn’t really understand what anyone was saying so I just screamed ‘Hopaaa!’ every time I got a hit and it worked out pretty well in the end.
“It was really nice being on the piste after such a long time ÔÇô the piste is where I live,” she concluded.
And long live her dream of making a difference through sport.