Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Living by the sword On the Home Front

World-class Manitoba fencer needs sponsors

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Daria Jorquera Palmer, 23, is one of Canada's most talented fencers.

This weekend, she will leave for Catania, Italy, where she will compete at the senior world championships Oct. 8-16. On the heels of that, she heads for Guadalajara, Mexico, and the Pan American Games Oct. 14-30. Then she will begin serious preparations for the Olympic qualifying season, which runs right through to March.

Among her highest fencing achievements, Palmer's portfolio lists top-eight world team ranking, 2009-2010; gold medal/Cup, Ligue de Bourgogne d'Escrime Championat Regional, 2008; gold medal, French National Junior Championship, team captain, 2008; Women to Watch grant, Sport Manitoba, 2007; Member national junior (under 20) epee team, 2006-2008; Cadet (under 17) World Championship in Bulgaria, 2004.

Yet her portfolio reads: "My national sport organization (Canadian Fencing Federation) is not able to fund the upcoming competitions or Olympic qualifying season. I have attached my athlete portfolio in the hopes that your company would consider sponsoring me."

Ayach Bounachada, Manitoba's provincial coach and Palmer's Lightning Fencing Club coach, says although she and Max Stearns (Rapier Fencing Club), who is already in Europe preparing for the senior worlds, are beating the bushes for sponsors, they cannot sharpen the kind of skills required to keep them on a level playing field.

Palmer does receive $1,500 amonth as a nationally carded athlete, which she says covers about 70 per cent of her costs. She is already out of pocket about $6,000 for expenses to cover travel to competitions and training camps in the United States and Europe. The part-time University of Manitoba student estimates the senior world championships will cost her $2,000, the Pan Am Games will be another $3,000 and $10,000 should cover the Olympic qualifying season.

Recently, she and Stearns, a student at Ohio State University, competed at the Pan Am championships in Reno, Nev., where Palmer finished sixth in individual epee and won silver in the team event. Stearns finished eighth in men's sabre. Both missed individual medals by only a couple of hits.

Palmer and Stearns are the first two Manitobans to compete together at the senior worlds. For Stearns, it will be his first time, but Palmer is a veteran. "This is my third senior world championships. This time I feel a lot more confident. I've been doing the whole World Cup circuit this year, which includes part of the Olympic qualifiers. We had training camps in Italy and Spain this summer, where we got to train with a lot of athletes from Europe and Asia."

Bounachada believes Italy could be a watershed tournament for Palmer. "If she makes the top 32, she will have a lot of points towards making the Olympic team. Also, if the team makes the top eight, it will make the Olympic team selection."

"No other athlete on a national team in Europe. that I know, has to pay their own way," Palmer said. "They call us a country of volunteers, when we tell them we have to pay for our competitions. I don't want to have to quit because I can't afford it."

For more information, email Lightning Fencing Club president Alan McCracken at amccrack@mts.net

allan.besson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 29, 2011 C8

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