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Wellington fencers aiming high at international competition

Nick Henderson (blue) competing at the New Zealand under-23 Fencing Foil Championships on June 1.

Two Wellington fencers are preparing for their first big overseas test.

James Harwood (Scots College) and Nick Henderson (Hutt Valley High School) will be attending the Commonwealth Cadet Championships in Cape Town next month.

The pair have trained together for more than five years at the Hutt Valley Fencing Club and have competed in the Australian Nationals, but this will be their first major overseas competition.

James Harwood (left) and Nick Henderson are off to the Commonwealth Cadet Fencing Championships in July.

Henderson, 16, said it was an ideal time to test themselves against competitors from around the world.

"It will be the first time I've faced people of this calibre."

Harwood, 17, agreed and said the trip was mainly about getting exposure to a higher level of competition than can be found in Australasia.

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"It's going to be the first big one for me, I've been over to Australia for the last few years but this will be the biggest by far.

"It's mainly for the experience and I'm aiming for the top-16 as well."

The pair recently registered top-15 finishes at the North Island Foil Championships against much older competition.

Henderson said he initially got into fencing after showing sword skills in the backyard.

"I was always the kid who would pick up a stick and swing it around the backyard, so someone suggested I look at fencing.

"I was eight or nine when I started and my first major competition was in December 2009, when I came second in an under-nine competition.

"That second was what made me want to come back, it showed me I had raw potential in the sport."

The boys compete in the foil division of fencing, where you can only point and thrust with the weapon. There are two other divisions: sabre and epee.

"The sabre is the hacking, slashing weapon used for cavalry in the old days, and can only hit the waist up," Henderson said.

"The epee is the gentleman's weapon and is poking only but is full body."

Fencing is a taxing sport, for the body, mind and wallet.

Henderson estimates he would have spent $20,000 from the "bank of mum and dad" since he started, while Harwood said he has spent $2500 on gear this year alone and the trip to South Africa would cost $6000.

The team going to Cape Town have started a Givealittle page to help fundraise money for the trip.

Henderson said the sport not only drained his parents' bank account, but also himself mentally and physically.

He likened it to a game of physical chess.

"It's three-minute intervals of intense physical and mental exertion.

"I train up to five days a week for two hours a pop. It's mainly about working on that raw fitness now, as I look at going to international competitions."

Henderson has given himself to goal of making the Commonwealth Games in the future.

"I'd like to make it to the senior Commonwealth Games, not just the baby one, either in three years or the next one after that."

Harwood was hesitant to put a long-term goal out there for himself but said he was focused on putting his best foot forward at the competition in Cape Town.

The competition runs from July 11-17.

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