In a season full of promise, German foil fencer Leonie Ebert spoke to the FIE about the people who have inspired and helped her to make her dreams a reality. Aiming for the qualification in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, both individually and with the national team, the 20-year-old reveals what it takes to rise up the ranks and challenge at the highest level of her sport.
I initially began fencing after watching my friend’s practice sessions and it truly fascinated me right away. As such, I began training myself and just a few weeks in I had already entered my first competition. Fencing was always so much more than just a hobby for me and it became the most important thing in my life.
I had to juggle my school life, personal life and fencing career for a number of years. Once, I even had to fly directly back from the Shanghai Grand Prix for my A-level exams. Though it was a difficult balance to maintain, all of my hard work has paid off so far and two years ago I earned my first Grand Prix medal in Anaheim.
The beginning of this season has been a difficult one as I did not do as well in the individual competitions as I had done in the past season. I faced some very challenging opponents that I was unable to beat in the end.
The important thing for me now is to continue to remain positive and to work hard. Fencing can be a frustrating sport sometimes, because training and dedication do not necessarily guarantee an easy victory. Despite this, I know that regardless of my results, I have to continue to fight if I want to make it to the highest levels of my sport.
That is all the more important in this season as we are in an Olympic year. I am hoping to qualify for Tokyo 2020 and have been training hard to take this chance as it does not come around very often. The qualification period is always a testing time, but all of us in the German national team are highly motivated to cross the finish line.
With something as important as the Olympic qualification period coming to an end, it is hard not to overthink what you are doing and to keep things in perspective. It is easy to forget that you still have a normal season to complete. As much as possible, I am trying to focus on each competition as it comes so I can start to feel free and fence for fun. When something feels as important as this, one of the best things you can do is stay relaxed.
Family has definitely been a key factor in getting me this far in fencing. My siblings Amelie and Constantin are both in the German national teams for synchronised swimming and basketball respectively, so I have always been surrounded by inspiring sports people who encourage me and have already achieved what I hope one day to achieve as well.
Having seen my siblings succeed in the sporting world, it seemed so natural for me to try to follow in their footsteps and dedicate my life to sport. It was great that we all ended up doing different sports so there was no rivalry between us and we could still help each other as much as possible. They have so much sporting experience and give me all of their support and passion. That is key in a sport with a lot of natural rivalry.
International Women's Day
With International Women’s Day approaching, I have been thinking about the many women who have continued to inspire me throughout my life. In fencing, Anja Fichtel competed very strongly at a very young age and rose to become one of the greatest German fencers of all time. Her passion has always helped give me confidence in my own abilities and she remains one of my greatest sporting heroes.
The women who inspire me the most, however, are in my family. My sister, for example, managed to balance being an athlete on an international stage and getting a medicine degree at university, and though it took a lot of hard work and dedication, she made it look easy. My mother, meanwhile, raised three children on her own while managing her job as national director of Special Olympics, and has also done everything in her power to help us throughout our sporting careers. It is her selflessness and willingness to do anything for us that has really inspired me throughout my life.
More and more people are finally beginning to understand that women can compete at the highest level in sports and should be free to do as they please. Unfortunately, this is not the case in all countries. I really hope more women realise that they are able to do anything with their lives and should not be restricted by the limitations that others try to put on them. The inspirational women in my life have shown me what women can truly accomplish and are certainly my biggest idols.