Big Interview: Versatile athlete Nicole Saunders has big ambitions

It could be said that all options are open for promising Chorley athlete Nicole Saunders.

By Craig Salmon
Saturday, 12th March 2022, 8:17 am

The Leyland youngster has a burning ambition to compete at the highest level in sport – but the question is, which sport?

Saunders, who is in Year 12 at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, in Blackburn, excels in athletics - particularly the discus - and is one of the best in her age group across the country in fencing.

The great thing is the 17-year-old has time on her side as she looks to forge a career in the future as a sportswoman.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Nicole Saunders is a member of Manchester Fencing Centre

A member of the elite Under-20s Great Britain fencing sabre squad, Saunders has been called up by her country on four occasions already this season - travelling across Europe to countries such as Bulgaria, Spain and ???.

And is currently ranked fifth among her peers in the UK.

Her ability with a discus in hand has also made people sit up and take note.

She has been invited on to the Youth Talent Programme (YTP) for athletics – one of only a handful of discus throwers to be selected.

Nicole Saunders has shown promise in the sport of fencing

The programme is the first step on the Talent Pathway for aspiring athletes, who have shown promise.

It is designed to meet the needs of identified, talented English athletes aged between 16 and 18 years of age, who could potentially go on to enjoy careers at the highest level of competition.

Saunders revealed that she would love to make the most of her talent and compete on the biggest stages in the world whether that be athletics or fencing.

She sites Chorley athlete and fellow Blackburn Harrier Holly Bradshaw as somebody she looks up to and would like to emulate.

Great Britain's Holly Bradshaw celebrates with the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics

The pole vaulter has been one of the best exponents of her craft in the world for the past decade, culminating in a bronze medal at last year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Saunders also holds Ribble Valley olympian Samantha Murray in high regard.

The former Bowland High School pupil won a silver medal at the London Olympics in 2012 in the modern pentathlon – an event which is made up of swimming, horse riding, shooting, running and fencing.

Seeing local athletes like Bradshaw and Murray develop into one of the world’s best in their chosen fields has certainly inspired Saunders.

"I would love to achieve that,” said Saunders, who is also a keen horse rider.

"I think that’s every athlete’s dream to compete at an Olympics.

"Becoming an athlete definitely could be a big ambition of mine.

"I am working hard to try to improve my personal bests in the discus.

"I would probably say I am one of the best in my age group at the discus.

"At the last English Championships, held before the Covid-19 pandemic, I finished second and was ranked second in my age group at the end of the season.

"Last year, I finished fifth in the English Schools Championships, at Sports City in Manchester. I had to meet a national qualifying standard which was 33 metres and I managed to do that.

"So that was good. Not everybody obviously got the qualifying standard so the competition was high.”

While she is showing great potential at the discus, her ability at fencing is also worthy of note.

A member of Manchester Fencing Centre

"I feel like the discus and the fencing are two different worlds,” the Manchester Fencing Centre member said.

"I do like fencing, it’s something I have done since I was eight-years-old, so I’ve been doing it quite a while now.

"When I was in Year 6 at school, I qualified for the England team for a competition in Poland.

"That was an annual event which I went to four times.

"At the last British Championships before Covid-19, I won that.

"This year I have been to international competitions in Hungary, Spain and Bulgaria.

"I am currently ranked sixth in the UK among the Under-20s and there is a possibility that I could be selected for the junior Commonwealth Games in India this year.

"That is a target of mine, but even if I don’t get selected, I still have two more years at this age group to compete at the Commonwealths, so that is goal.”

Saunders admits she has looked into the possibility of becoming a modern pentathlete, like Murray.

"Unfortunately, the weapon they use in fencing for the modern pentathlon is different to the one I fence with,” she said.

"They use the epee where as I use the sabre.

"I have done the modern pentathlon briefly, but the weapon I used is a lot faster.”

Support us and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news, the latest football stories and new puzzles every day. With a digital subscription, you can see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe. ">Click here to subscribe.