Beddingfield Sisters Share About Fencing, Schoolwork, Sisterhood

"I love team fencing because you get to share your victories with your teammates and, in my case, my best friend and sister, Claire!"

Catherine B. ‘18 and her sister Claire B. ‘20 participated in a lot of traditional sports as kids, including soccer, track, and skiing. When their family friend suggested they try fencing, they were curious. 

“I assumed it would be a fun activity that replicated the scene in The Parent Trap,” said Claire, of the scene in the 1998 movie update starring Lindsay Lohan where the two main characters meet for the first time after a fencing bout at camp. “But it was the furthest thing from it. It was a lot of hard work and dedication from the start.”

That hard work and dedication have paid off for both sisters as they have competed and placed in a number of national and international tournaments over the years. This year Catherine and Claire competed together on the USA Junior Team at the Junior Olympics, winning a Gold Medal. Claire then went on to compete as one of three girls to represent the USA in the Cadet World Championship in Verona, Italy, finishing in 11th place and Catherine has accepted an offer from Harvard University where she will study and fence next year.

We caught up with the girls before exam week to find out more about their fencing successes, balancing schoolwork and athletics, and their sister relationship.

Marlborough: What was your favorite fencing competition?

Catherine: Although fencing is an individual sport, I do compete in team events, and it’s hard not to get excited about those. Claire and I were on a team together a couple months ago at the Junior Olympics and won gold! I love team fencing because you get to share your victories with your teammates and, in my case, my best friend and sister, Claire! There’s always a lot of cheering and screaming involved, and everything seems amplified; team events always draw the largest crowds. This gold was particularly special because it was most likely our last team event together (NCAA rules prohibit me from fencing on a different team than that of my college).

Marlborough: Claire, how did you feel when you qualified to join the US Cadet National Team for the World Championships?

Claire: Up until the very last moment before the athletes would know who made the team, I was completely stressed out because I was neck and neck with two other girls. This past year was a hard journey for me because I felt the constant need to excel at each tournament I attended. It was probably the toughest thing I have ever had to fight for, but the moment they announced my name at the podium made it all worth it. It had not only been my goal but also my coaches’ goal for me from the beginning. Knowing that I made it was everything. It was like I could finally breathe.

Marlborough: What was your favorite part of the World Championships?  

Claire: My favorite part of World Championships was the energy there. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I think it was more special than a regular tournament because each athlete had the same goal: to win. However, it was also because we had a mutual respect among each other and were able to acknowledge that all of us had worked hard and sacrificed a lot to be there. Although there were cameras and flashing lights and loud announcements, I felt really at home because of the fact that I deserved to be there and knew that even if I lost, I would go down fighting. That security in myself is something I have never really felt before this competition.

Marlborough: Catherine, what are you looking forward to the most about fencing at Harvard?

Catherine: I cannot wait to start fencing at Harvard. College fencing is more similar to the team fencing at the Junior Olympics: during every bout, your entire team stands behind you and supports you. The Harvard fencing team is known for even having a giant drum that we bang while chanting “HFT” before each competition.

Marlborough: How have you both balanced training and competition with school work?

Catherine: I can’t say it was always easy, but I had a lot of support from my teachers and deans, and I learned a great deal about time management. Since half of my competitions are in Europe, I have long plane rides that serve as the perfect place to get work done. For me, practice is also a nice break from studying. After training, I’ll feel even more clear-headed than I would have been sitting at a desk for hours without a break.

Claire: Because of the training and travel schedule, I have learned a lot about time management and discipline, as well. My teachers have been kind enough to meet with me and help me in every way possible and because of this, I got to achieve one of my dreams. I am doing my best to stay diligent, intelligent and kind - all things that Marlborough values.

Marlborough: What has it been like training with your sister?

Catherine: I am so grateful for this sport that, amazingly, attracted both my sister and me. Claire and I have always been extremely close, but sharing the experience of long daily practices and flights to competitions two to three times a month has bonded us in a special way. While most of my friends are involved in demanding extracurriculars, fencing has definitely been a unique experience to which I often feel only Claire can relate.

Claire: Training with my sister has been the best part about fencing for me, and, in many ways, fencing has played a huge part in our own relationship. While competition seems like it would bring us further apart, it has actually made us closer. We compete tirelessly and push each other to seemingly unreachable limits, but at the end of the day, we support each other. Whenever I need advice or support from a heavy loss, I know that she is always there. Next year, Catherine will be in college, so I don’t know when the next time we will train together will be; however, being able to have this shared experience for almost 8 years is something that I wouldn't trade for the world and value more than anyone could ever know.

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