Thursday, 04 June 2015 08:22

Fastest fencer to hang up his pliers

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Nick Liefting plans to retire from competitive fencing after this year’s Fieldays competition. Nick Liefting plans to retire from competitive fencing after this year’s Fieldays competition.

One of competitive fencing’s living legends will step down from singles competition at this year’s Wiremark Golden Pliers at the National Fieldays.

Former national and international champion Nick Liefting plans to retire from competitive singles fencing after this year’s competition to focus on helping young competitors.

After 40 years of competing – and two weeks after his 60th birthday – Liefting will contest his last event almost certain in the knowledge that he will be the first competitor to finish.

 “I told the guys after I won my second Wiremark Golden Pliers in 1997 that if anybody could beat me to the end of the line then I’d retire. Last year, I think I was 40 minutes faster than the next competitor so I should be able to go out with a bang.”

Liefting first entered the competition in 1975, at the suggestion of another contractor, qualifying for the Silver Spades doubles finals and for the Golden Pliers singles finals.

He has watched the sport grow from one competition at the National Fieldays to a range of events all across the country filled with highly competitive fencers of all ages. 

“There’s a good turnout at all the regionals,” Liefting says. “The quality is high; it’s getting to the point where the only way to tell the difference is a spirit level and a tape measure.”

And while there are speedsters coming up through the ranks of younger competitors, some are saying it may be difficult to keep up with Liefting’s pace.

The South Auckland fencer has been first in 28 of the 40 years he has competed, beating competitors half his age. He once finished in the finals 90 minutes ahead of his nearest competitor.

Hawkes Bay fencing contractor and 14-time Wiremark Golden Pliers winner Paul Van Beers says Liefting brings a big element of excitement to the competition. “He keeps the element of speed in the competition.”

Liefting has had more than his fair share of wins, taking home the Wiremark Golden Pliers award in 1986 and 1997, winning the double Silver Spades competition four times and being named world champion in 2008, at age 53. 

Taking part in the Wiremark Golden Pliers has opened up opportunities in New Zealand and around the world, he says. And gym training and half marathons keep him in shape for competitions.

Liefting admits the sport has taken its toll on joints and muscles. “I got a titanium knee 18 months ago and had a shoulder reconstruction one year ago. It’s not getting any easier.” 

But he’s not quitting fencing. He plans to spend his free time running workshops and entering regional competitions in two-man teams with young fencers looking to get into the sport.

Competition heats at this year’s Fieldays will be held on the Monday June 8 .The Bill Schuler Novice Round final will be held on Wednesday June 10, the Wiremark Golden Pliers Championship finals on Thursday June 11 and Fieldays Silver Spades Championship finals on Friday June 12.

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