While most of her new schoolmates had sports like hockey and netball in mind, Niamh Spence quickly opted for swordplay when she went to Foyle College at 11 years old.
Five years later, the Derry student’s fencing talent has made her a winner in the Emo Sports Awards, sponsored by the leading oil company in partnership with the Mary Peters Trust.
She said: “I also played hockey when I started at the college, but in third year I decided to concentrate on fencing. The sport is really challenging and exciting. I loved it from the start.
“I began by using the epee for seven or eight months, but I switched to the sabre and it’s now my speciality. It’s a lot faster discipline than the foil and epee.”
Speed has also marked her accumulation of honours and, in the last year, her wins have included the Irish Open, and the Carrickfergus and North West Opens.
She fenced for Ireland at cadet (under 17) level in events in France and Germany, and qualified for the European Cadet Championships in Austria.
Representing Northern Ireland, she has competed in the senior five nations competition and the UK School Games.
Coach Mike Westgate, said: “Niamh has already won senior competitions in Ireland, but realises that fencing is now a very competitive sport and that it’s not easy to reach the top at international level.
“However, she is a hard worker and very determined, and I’m confident that many more honours will come her way.”