Lauren McLane, Hong Kong’s top ranked U14 épée fencer, has her heart set on becoming a real-life Jedi – or as close to it as her sport will allow her.
“When I was little, I adored Star Wars, and I thought of myself as a Jedi Master or a young Padawan training with Yoda,” the 13-year-old said. “I have actually practised blindfolded, like Luke Skywalker.”
Last weekend, she earned the title of champion in the Hong Kong U20 Fencing Championships in the Cadet (U17) Women’s Épée, making her one of the top two ranked cadets (a fencer under the age of 17) in the city despite still being a minime – a fencer under the age of 14. Lauren defeated 16-year-old American Grace Yang in a thrilling back-and-forth tiebreaker for the final, with both girls switching leads before Lauren finally emerged the winner.
“I wasn’t exactly calm,” said Lauren, who won even though she was still recovering from an injury and fighting off a chest infection. “I was worried about getting even more injured, and I also didn’t want to lose a touché or point. But in a match you don’t want to be calm – you need a little pressure.”
It certainly seems like Lauren does well under pressure, as she also took home gold in the 61st Fencing of Sports Tournament on April 28, in a match that came down to a tiebreak, or “sudden death”.
“What I have learned is that there is good luck and bad luck,” said Lauren. “I have had my fair share of both. You just have to push through the bad moments. You can’t wait for your luck to turn.”
So, how did Lauren get so good, so fast? The Chinese International School (CIS) student first started fencing when she was five, and she has been obsessed with the sport ever since, working with coaches at both the Hong Kong Fencers Club and her school.
“Fencing is great because it’s so competitive. You definitely need a strong competitive spirit to succeed,” said Lauren, who prefers the épée to the other two fencing weapons – the foil and the sabre. This is, she said, because the entire body serves as the target with the épée.
“In fencing, you also have to be creative and innovate. No touché is the same. Every moment is unique, unpredictable, and exciting.
“I love this sport because it pushes me to find creative solutions to complex problems and situations.”
Lauren’s incredible results are all the more impressive given that fencing is very popular in Hong Kong – but she isn’t content to just be one of the best in the city. The Hong Kong-born student holds a US passport, but is trying to get a Hong Kong one so that she can represent the city internationally as well.
She also wants to inspire more of her peers to try the sport.
“Training can be hard in the beginning and the drills can feel tedious,” she advised wannabe fencers. “But don’t be discouraged – the outcomes are fun and rewarding.”