To the hilt: no foiling his epee ardour

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by Chris Tobin

After 51 years of fencing Graham Payne’s love of the sport has not diminished.

And he is still achieving excellent results.

In recent weeks the 65-year-old competed in the Asian Veteran Fencing Championships in Taipei.

He came second in the foil event and sixth in epee in the 60 to 70 age group category.

“As you age you lose your top-end speed but not the timing and you have the experience,” he said.

The sport has been described as being a challenging game of chess requiring a combination of mental ability and physical prowess.

“I do cross-training and go to as many Christchurch and Dunedin regional tournaments that I can. I’m still getting good results in open events.”

Payne said he became hooked on the sport while he was a pupil at Henderson High School.

“I got addicted to it. It’s technically and physically intense; you get a good feeling at the end of a bout, especially if you come off with a win.

“I competed mostly on a national level and more lately internationally at Commonwealth, world and Asian championships.”

A New Zealand team of four competed in the Asian Veteran Fencing Championships, Payne proving the most successful.

Fit and ready . . . Graham Payne says he is still achieving good results in open events at the age of 65. PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

“My highlights prior to this was placing second in the Thailand Open [Fencing] Championships and first in the team’s event. That was a long time ago – about 20 or 30 years.”

He won the New Zealand open epee title in 2010.

“At my age I shouldn’t be winning but I’ve kept myself fit and healthy,” he said.

As well as cross-training, he kept in shape by cycling and after so many years in the sport he did not need to sharpen his technique, nor did he have to learn new tricks – that all came with experience.

He started a fencing club in Timaru but the sport never took a firm hold in the town.

“I had 15 kids at Timaru Boys’ High School. It dwindled away and the only local club now is in Waimate.

“For a lot of the kids it was their second sport but you need to be committed. It has to be your No1 sport because of the investment in equipment and having to go to events.”

Now semi-retired and soon to become permanently retired, Payne will soon have more time to sharpen his fitness and skills.

And he already has competitions lined up for next year.

“I’m considering the world veterans championships in Croatia, the Commonwealth championships in Canada and the Asian championships in Hong Kong.

“I’ll have to choose.”