LAUSANNE, Switz., July 9, 2021—The FIE is saddened to learn of the passing of Gillian Donaldson (née Sheen) MBE, DDS (GBR) in Auburn, New York, USA, on July 5 at the age of 92. An Olympic gold medallist in women’s foil at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, she competed in three Olympics (Helsinki 1952, Melbourne 1956 and Rome 1960). She won a bronze medal in team women’s foil at the 1950 Monte Carlo Senior World Championships. In 1949, she won her first of 10 British national championship titles.
Gillian Donaldson began fencing in Great Britain while attending the North Foreland school in Kent as a young girl, winning the 1945 “schoolgirls” title. She won the individual gold medal at the 1951 Summer International University Sports Week in Luxembourg and then a silver medal at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, Canada. She went on to victory in the Scandinavian championship in 1957 and won a gold medal at the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales. She competed until 1963, winning her final British championship in 1960, the same year she defended her Olympic title in Rome.
She maintained a lifelong love of sports, especially fencing but also tennis, golf and others, and worked as a referee, volunteer and coach. She was a YMCA board member in Auburn, NY, and active in community civic and charitable programmes. She wrote a book, Instructions to Young Fencers, published in 1958.
In 2019, Gillian Donaldson was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to UK sport.
On behalf of our world fencing family, the FIE extends its deepest condolences to Gillian Donaldson’s family and friends, as well as British Fencing and the European Fencing Confederation during this difficult time.