WINSLEY junior world fencing champion Philip Marsh is swapping home for Paris to chase his Rio 2016 Olympic dream – and believes he could win a gold medal.
The left-handed epeeist became both Britain’s first world junior champion for 35 years and the youngest-ever male junior world champion at the 2011 World Junior and Cadet Championships in Jordan.
However, the 17-year-old has revealed the British Fencing Association has arranged for him to move to Paris next summer and train in one of France’s world-class fencing schools to cultivate his raw talent.
“I’m not sure how much potential there is, but I’m going to Paris next summer for a gap year after I finish school,” said Marsh, who benefits from being a member of the Lloyds TSB’s Local Heroes programme.
“Training with the best in the world will only help and in my weapon I use the French grip, which can obviously be perfected in Paris.
“I am not daunted about leaving my family to go out there. I am actually quite excited by the prospect because I don’t get the chance to train as much as I want in Britain.
“Looking back I am now able to put my world junior title win into perspective. I was happy with it at the time but the more I have reflected on it over time the happier I have become.
“It was a big surprise. I went into it ranked somewhere around 140th and it was quite surprising I beat the defending champion in the semi-final. I was not expecting that at all, especially after he had beaten me just a few weeks before.
“It gave me a big confidence boost because I didn’t know what I was capable of before that.
“It has put me in a different position for future competitions. I now expect more of myself because I have done it once, so I think I can do it again.
“I think my opponents did stand up and take notice but only for a short while. I think I am probably under more pressure now but I think I am coping with it well.”
Britain fielded a 10-strong squad for London 2012, but there were no epee entries for the host nation, who saw all of their competitors crash out early on at the ExCel Arena.
Marsh, who concedes he actually entered the frame for Olympic selection, is determined to make the squad for Rio 2016 – and has not ruled out a gold medal because of the unique nature of the sport.
“Going into the season I didn’t think I was in contention for the Olympics, but I had a good start and suddenly I was in contention,” added the Bath Sword Club member.
“I think I won all but one of my competitions but I didn’t really finish it well and was probably just a slightly too young. I don’t really have that international experience yet.
“No one did amazingly well but it would have been nice to have someone compete in our event.
“In the final I think it was something like the world number 13 against the world number 48, which just shows how unpredictable the sport is.
“That showed to me that if I do make the Rio Olympics, that once you are there anything can happen and there is no reason why I couldn’t win a gold medal.
“Fencing is a mental sport and with experience you react better to different situations because you have experienced them before.
“When I first started going to international tournaments I didn’t know how to deal with them. I was surprised by the speed of the matches – it was a lot faster than what I was used to.
“Fencers tend to peak around the age of 28 so in the next 10 years I would have had a lot of experience by then which will help a lot.”