A young Leonora Mackinnon on her way up to the top
AN anxious wait paid off for Leonora Mackinnon when she was given her boarding pass to fly out to this year’s Rio Olumpic Games.
The 21-year old from East End is a former Cheam, Bradfield and St Gabriel’s pupil will be representing Canada at The Olympiad, having opted for on side of her dual nationality two years ago.
Since then she has won gold at the PanAm Junior Championships, bronze at the senior championships and qualified for the World Championships, putting her in a good position to qualify for Rio.
She decided to postpone her final year at University to fulfil that dream, and has been training full-time with the famed Escrime Sans Frontieres in Paris under maestro Daniel Levavasseur.
That dedication paid off when she was named in the Canadian team for the games, although it was an anxious wait for confirmation after she had been eliminated from the Epee Grand Prix event in Budapest last week, the fnal qualifying event.
“Thre were two places avaialble,” she said, “and gthe girl behind me went a couple of rounds further than me
and had to get into the top 16 to take the last place.
“I had to watch nervously from the stands to see if I qualified, or had to go to another qualifier in Costa Rica.
“It was difficult,” she said. “It is hard to wish ill on anybody as we all know each other very well and wasn’t a nice situation.
“But it came out well for me in the end.”
Leonora’s fencing career began at the age of eight under Allen Cooke at Cheam School, and she progressed to wuining the Master of Arms trophy at the Public Schools Fencing Competion for five years running and was twice a gold medal winner at the UK School Games.
Now she is preparing to come under the gaze of billions at Rio. “It will be a bit weird competing against the British fencers,” she said, “It is the same as a normal competition, but the Olympics put you on a pedestal so it is always going to be different.”
Leonora has this week returned to Paris to continue her Rio build-up in an international ‘academy’ of fencers from Tunisia, Brasil, Ivory Coast an Senegal among other nations, seven of whom have qualified for the Games.