A DENTON teacher admits she has been blown away by the response to a fundraising drive that enabled her to compete at a world fencing championships.
Amanda Baxendale, assistant head at Greswell Primary School, represented Great Britain in the 1992 Olympics, when she went by her maiden name of Ferguson.
Now she will fly out to Egypt to take on the world’s best in her age group at the Veterans’ Fencing World Championship after qualifying.
And after having to pull out of previous tournaments because of a lack of funding, she will take part in the Veterans A class in both the individual and team ladies foil in early October.
The response to a fundraising page she set up online has also bowled the 52-year-old over – notably one former pupil’s donation.
“I’ve managed to get enough to buy a tracksuit now and cover the entrance fees,” Amanda told the Correspondent.
“I genuinely didn’t expect the response. I thought I’d have to pay for everything myself, I didn’t think that other people would contribute in the way they have.
“It’s lovely – friends and family and even former pupils have donated.
“One girl I taught was bullied when she was here and I made a real effort with her and looked after her.
“She’s now in her 20s and she contributed. How nice is that?
“I was going to borrow a tracksuit as I didn’t want to pay £100 for it but I can have my own now.
“I hope to continue to fence for Great Britain after and I qualified for the worlds a while ago but couldn’t afford to go.
“I qualified once as British number one but in order to fence at international level, you have to get proper Kevlar equipment, a proper mask and it will cost at least £1,500 to renew all your gear.”
Amanda was a four time British champion in ladies foil in the late 1980s and early 1990s before retiring because as she puts it: “I had a life.”
However, getting together at a retirement party for a former coach at Ashton Fencing Club sparked a conversation that saw her pick up a sword once again.
She immediately achieved national success, although once had to surrender a British title as she could not get the train to the following year’s event because of snow.
Now after being sent to the European Championship in Cognac, France, by British Veteran Fencing and finishing eighth she is on her way to Cairo.
“Qualifying was such a shock,” added Amanda, who now trains at the Manchester Fencing Centre. “At the time, I wasn’t even fencing well.
“I’ve been fencing again for four years after I went to a former coach’s retirement party and said, ‘Let’s get a veterans’ team together.’
“So we did and as you can see, things have gone well.”
Amanda, who lives in Glossop, may be a former Olympian and currently one of the best in her field but she does not shout about her achievements at Greswell, on Percy Road.
Her pupils will be able to watch her in action, though, as the tournament will be streamed live on the internet.
And she thanked school bosses for giving her a couple of days off during term in order to compete.
She said: “I leave for Egypt on Saturday, October 5. On the Monday, I fence in the individual competition, on the Tuesday I’m in the team competition and I fly home on the Wednesday.
“It’s a real in and out job but I’m grateful to Greswell for allowing me the time off. I have to show I really contribute to the children’s education and I hope I do that.”
Kids at the school are not bored with tales of 27 years ago in Spain but they are impressed by one fact – Amanda has her own page on Wikipedia.
And they will be given a message after she has competed.
“I think everyone who has competed in the Olympics gets one,” added the medal winner in the Commonwealth Fencing Championships, which is not part of the Commonwealth Games.
“They’re very impressed.
“When I came back from the European Championships, I had to deliver an assembly and I will again after the worlds.
“And my message will be about not giving up, which is a big thing at Greswell.
“The championships will be live streamed, which hopefully some of the kids will watch. My daughter and husband saw the Europeans.
“But the whole response to the online page has been overwhelming.”