‘There are no limits to what I can achieve,’ says Harrogate Olympic fencing hopeful James Jeal
Harrogate fencer James Jeal is setting his sights on a place at the 2024 Olympic Games following a stellar season that has seen him complete an unprecedented hat-trick.
The 17-year-old recently added the British under-23 Championships crown to his British Junior (under-20) and British Youth (under-18) titles, a feat that has never been achieved inside a 12-month period before.
Currently top of the British rankings, Jeal will compete in the Junior European Championships in Porec, Croatia later this month, where he is hopeful of retaining his position in order to be selected for the World Championships in Salt Lake City, as well as the Commonwealth Games in India.
And, should he continue to impress at these competitions, the former King James’ School pupil is confident that he will go on to realise his childhood dream of becoming an Olympian.
“As I’ve climbed the British rankings, I’ve shown that I can compete with the top athletes in the sport around the world,” Jeal said.
“Last year, for example, I narrowly lost to the world number three in my age-group at the European Championships, showing that even though Great Britain doesn’t fund my sport to the levels of other countries, I am still able to compete with the best.
“This was the moment the dream of the Olympics started to become an ambition and a goal of mine and I believe with the right training and continued drive and support that I can make it a reality.
“Even from being as young as 10 years old, when I won my first British championship in tetrathlon, I dreamed of making the Olympics one day and the dream is still the same
“For any athlete, competing at the Olympics is a life-changing experience and for me, it would be nothing less.”
Jeal, who has been fencing for six years, was introduced to the sport while training for the modern pentathlon.
He honed his skills at Harrogate Fencing Club before moving to the Derbyshire Epee Academy to work under the tutelage of Anthony Klenczar.
And things have really started to come together for the teenager since he began training in Dronfield.
“Going into the season I knew I was fencing well and the under-18 title was something I was really working towards and hoping to win,” he added.
“But, never did I see myself winning all three titles at the age of 17, and in the same year.
“It just shows that with the right mindset and belief anything is possible as even though I didn’t see it happening, every competition I went to, the belief and hunger to win was the same no matter who I was fencing or what competition it was.”
Jeal has made plenty of sacrifices since taking up fencing, but he feels that his successes during the past 12 months vindicate all of the effort and money that he has put into the sport.
“It shows that the amount of work, time and money that has been going into my sport over the last few years has been paying off,” he said.
“It shows that in the future, with continued work and time, plus possible funding and financial support, there are no limits to what I can achieve.”