At 14 years of age, fencer Dominique Stowell had the world at her feet.
Already the British champion, Dominique was looking ahead to an exciting future in the sport with Commonwealth Games, World Championships and even Olympic Games medals within her sight.
She was peerless – a child prodigy destined for the very top. She continued to see off the competition and was making a splash at international competitions.
“I was very much like a male fencer in that I was quite aggressive and fast. At the age of 12 I was fencing against people who were 18 or 19 and I was going abroad for competitions and camps,” Dominique said.
“By the time I was 14 I won the British Senior National Championships, which was quite an achievement!”
She continued to progress as she went through her teens and eventually competed at four world championships’ and two Commonwealth Games’ – she was the real deal in British fencing.
But then one day, four years ago, Dominique’s life took a dramatic change as a crippling injury put her out of action. A ruptured cruciate ligament meant she had to stop fencing for the foreseeable future and concentrate on her recovery.
It took two years for her injury to heal and, by then, Dominique knew she wanted a break from the sport. The rupture had put paid to her chances of representing Team GB in Beijing in 2008 – and also means she will miss this year’s London Olympics.
“I’d never had an injury before so it was really disheartening to miss out on Beijing after I’d put all that effort into it,” said Dominique. “I decided I needed to have a break.”
But instead of feeling sorry for herself, 22-year-old Dominique has joined the Paul Davis Fencing Academy, and is now coaching all around Hertfordshire in a bid to encourage children to take up the sport she loves.
The academy offers coaching for children in a number of venues throughout Dacorum, and has made a very successful start to 2012.
Academy members won nine medals at the county championships, with fencers also taking part in the Eastern Region Championships, England Youth Championships and British Youth Championships.
“I’m now coaching full-time but hoping to get back into training at the end of this year,” said Dominique.
“A lot of schools are becoming really interested and it’s becoming a very popular sport. Some of the kids are amazing and really should stick at it.”
Dominique says that she can see aspects of herself in some of the youngsters. “Sometimes fencing can be very posh,” she said. “But I didn’t go to private school and it’s nice for the kids to see that I’m not from that background but I’ve achieved so much from the sport.”
Despite the disappointment of missing out on the Olympics this summer, Dominique says she is focused on getting back into the GB squad when she feels she is ready,
“When I’m fit I’ll get back in touch with them and enter some competitions to start picking up some qualification points,” she said.
“To be honest, from looking at how the women are doing, they haven’t got anyone coming through – there’s no-one new.
“So in a way that excites me because there’s nobody to worry about and hopefully I can step straight back in there, which would be great.”
With the drive, passion and determination Dominique has in abundance, it would be foolish to bet against her doing just that.
> If you would like to find out more about Dominique’s coaching at the Paul Davis Fencing Academy, visit www.pdf-academy.co.uk, call 07867 897195 or email firstname.lastname@example.org