Q&A with no.1 British sabreur Chrystall Nicoll

realbuzz.com catches up with Britain’s no.1 sabreuse Chrystall Nicoll

When realbuzz interviewed Chrystall Nicoll the sabreuse (ranked British female number one) was on the come down from a highly successful season in which she climbed 60 places up the world rankings. She gave us the low-down on her training, motivation and her aspirations in a year in which she will fight to qualify for London 2012.

Chrystall Nicoll

Q. Tell us about your progress last season. You managed to climb 60 spots in the rankings?

A. Yeah, I had a shaky start, I was under pressure but I managed to get my mental side together for the middle and end. I got consistently better performances and results than I'd had in my previous career. As well as two bronze medals I also made several last 16 places and targeted events and the grand prix which count double.

Q. With that in mind, this may be a silly question, but what are your ambitions going into 2012?

A. To make the top 8 (in the world).  My main focus is to continue to climb the world rankings and get myself in a position to qualify directly for 2012. My goal has to be to make that top 12 so that I don't have to worry about zonal qualifying [and qualify automatically] and just know that I'm absolutely in the top 12 and going to be qualifying. I have 98 points. I need 20 more. If I can get three medals this year (instead of two like last year) from 8 World Cup events then that'll put me into the top 12 and direct qualifying.

Q. How did you get into fencing, a sport which is perhaps not as accessible as others?

A. My mum did it as a fitness and fun activity at a local school. My brother joined and took some friends and I did the same. It just suddenly went from doing a couple of hours and then I really took to it and ended up back there training every day. It is more accessible now through schools and through mini fencing. We are doing a lot to try and make the sport more accessible to all levels and hopefully that will come across as a legacy from 2012.

Q. You mentioned the huge motivation of making that top 12 and qualifying for London 2012 what else drives you to success?

A. Qualifying is always in the back of your mind because the end goal is to get the medal and you can't do that if you don't get there! But apart from that just wanting to be the best fencer in the world is always a motivator in itself and you can't do that unless you beat the best people and if you do that you'll also qualify. So it's a big circle. All the goals are common and lead to one end target.

Q. Tell us about the mental side and preparation involved in fencing.

A. People refer to it as physical chess. It is very mental. I've been spending a lot more time with the sport psychologists from the English Institute of Sport. I talk through training and goals and competitions. We come up with ways to focus and how to make sure I'm in the moment and not over thinking which can be detrimental. If you think too much then your natural instincts don't flow. You can lose a run of hits quite quickly so I do quite a lot of work on making sure that I focus and I am in control my senses.

Q. Although you didn't compete you went to Beijing. What was that like as an experience?

A. Huge! I was massively disappointed not to have been there competing myself. Our team narrowly missed out. I had a club mate competing and got to watch him compete. I got to see the holding camp at Macau and we went to the village. It's just invaluable experience. Regardless of how many times you speak to Olympians ... it's not the same thing. I got to see a Chinese competitor, a massive outsider, who wasn't ranked top 30 in the world in the men's sabreur actually go out and win gold on home soil and the atmosphere was just unbelievable. That will be the same environment for me on home soil (in 2012).

Q. How do you psyche yourself up before a fight? Do you get the adrenaline flowing or try to be calm?

A. It's a balance. In the past when I've gotten myself too hyped up it can affect you badly because I rush things and don't think clearly about the next couple of hits but at the same time if in too clam I can start slow. You need to be relaxed and confident and believe in your ability to deal with a situation but at the same time having anger and determination of "I really want to win this fight" is very important as well.

Q. Do you listen to 'Eye of the Tiger' or that sort of thing?

A. (Laughs) Yeah, that kind of thing. I do carry my iPod to every event and kind of stare at the floor or jog around. Sometime you can do the intimidation tactic and get on the piste early to stare out your opponent! It depends on the event. Sometimes you'll be in the cool room preparing and you'll just try to stay loose and think about my game plan and focus on the hits that I want to do one at a time rather than the outcome. Sequences rather than let's go and win.

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