Elite Amateur Sport Fencing Para Sport

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Wheelchair fencer Trinity Lowthian ranked world No. 1, after winning global U23 epee bronze

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By Martin Cleary

Sixteen months ago, Trinity Lowthian decided to focus her athletic drive, this time as a para athlete, on wheelchair fencing with Ottawa Fencing.

Today, the former able-bodied athlete in triathlon, running, water polo, cross-country skiing and biathlon, is the world’s No.-1 ranked U23 wheelchair epee fencer in the B category.

How shocking is that? Lowthian can’t believe her focus and determination has delivered her to that lofty height in such a short timeframe.

“It feels like it doesn’t totally make sense. I can’t wrap my head around it,” Lowthian said in a phone interview, after returning home from a successful world U23 wheelchair fencing championships last month in Busan, Korea.

Lowthian, 21, explained the world rankings were determined by combining the results of the 2022 and 2023 world championships. In her debut 2022 worlds, she placed sixth in women’s B epee. In Busan, she found her way to the podium, winning a bronze in the combined A and B class epee competition.

While Lowthian has determined epee will be her main focus as she continues to develop her international career and aim for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, she also fenced in foil and sabre, placing seventh and eighth respectively, to gain more competitive and mental experience.

Immediately after the world championships, she fought her three weapons at the World Cup in Busan. Epee was her sixth and final event during her fencing frenzy and she was exhausted. After winning five of six epee bouts to place second in her pool, she lost in the round of 16. In her other two events, she was top 16 in sabre and 21st in foil.

At the world championships, epee was her first competition and “that was good for me.”

Lowthian posted a 3-2 round-robin record against the other five competitors. Four of the fencers were at the A level, while the other two, including Lowthian, were classified as B fencers.

In her quarter-final, she defeated an American who had participated in the Tokyo Paralympics 15-12.

“I was really focused on that day and match,” she said. “I stayed with my game plan and that worked for me. I wanted to put in the work and not have it quick and easy.

“My game plan was built on timing and working on the other person’s mistakes. I had endurance. I wear them out.”

By reaching the semifinals, she guaranteed herself a bronze medal, but getting to the final would be difficult. Lowthian knew her Korean opponent was highly skilled and a past World Cup winner at the A level.

Confident but also realistic, Lowthian figured she may not win the match and hoped she could score at least five points. In the end, she made two or three hits in her loss.

“It was crazy,” Lowthian said about winning her first world championship medal. “I didn’t expect that in a mixed A and B competition. Historically, B fencers haven’t won a medal in the last 10 years.

“When I saw so many A-class fencers in my competition, I got a bit nervous. But it went well. After the quarterfinals, I was happy as I knew my hard work had paid off.”

This summer, Lowthian continued her training with Ottawa Fencing coach Paul ApSimon at the St. Paul’s University gym and did cross-country roller skiing to build up her cardiovascular system.

But she spent the month of May at The Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre, after suffering a second bout of meningitis, which is inflammation of the protective membrane around the heart and spinal cord. As a result, she is now fully dependent on her wheelchair.

Read More: HIGH ACHIEVERS: Trinity Lowthian hitting the target in wheelchair fencing, despite major health issues

While at the centre, the training she received for learning new independent living skills also served her well in her pursuit of fencing. As she learned how to move in and out of her wheelchair, she also improved her balance and core strength.

“A lot of it (rehabilitation training) was focused around it (sport training) and that motivated me,” Lowthian explained. “It improved my fencing and my coach noticed a big difference as to how I fenced and moved.”

In 2018, Lowthian developed intestinal and stomach failure as well as some neuropathy. She can’t eat food and lives on a daily liquid diet of Total Parenteral Nutrition at night and saline solution throughout the day to receive all her necessary vitamins, minerals and nutrients.

When she tried a new medication for her intestinal and stomach failure in January, she developed meningitis for a second time, which introduced a wheelchair into her life full-time.

As Lowthian prepared for the world U23 championships in Busan, she debated whether to take her Canadian flag just in case she won a medal. In the end, she packed the flag and had a proud moment wrapping it around her shoulders at the medal ceremony.

If you ask to see her medal, it will take a while. She has packed it in a box as her family prepares to move to a house in midtown Ottawa from Stittsville. The new home will give Lowthian a better opportunity for independent living on the main floor and be closer to her St. Paul’s University training centre.

Lowthian returns to the international wheelchair fencing scene at the world senior championships Oct. 2-8 in Terni, Italy. Good results in Terni as well as competitions in Thailand, Great Britain and Costa Rica will strengthen her chance to qualify for the Paris Paralympics.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.

Martin can be reached by e-mail at martincleary51@gmail.com and on Twitter @martincleary.

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