Team GB’s Gabi Down retires from Wheelchair Fencing, aged 17.


In the annoucement of her retirement, Down's claimed her choice was the 'hardest decision' she had ever made.

Team GB Wheelchair Fencer, Gabi Down has announced her retirement from the sport in what she has described as the ‘hardest decision’ she has ever had to make. Following Down’s announcement, IWAS spoke to the Paralympian about the highs and lows of her career and what the future holds for the 17 year old.

A devoted fencer since the age of 11, Down told IWAS what she loved about the sport; ‘As soon as I had tried it I fell in love instantly. I loved the mentality behind the sport, you’re constantly trying to outsmart your opponent and trying to read what their next move is going to be.’

Fast forward three short years from the 11 year old who claimed ‘getting hit with a sword terrified me slightly!’ to the 14 year old athlete selected to compete at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. ‘My biggest achievement in Wheelchair Fencing is getting to fence at the London 2012 Paralympics as part of the Women’s Epee team event.’ Named one of the youngest para-athletes to compete at this level, her contributions saw the team finish in eighth position.

However, the past 18 months have seen Down’s battle with a persistent wrist injury which having sought advice from numerous medical professionals, she has found would result in surgery. ‘The surgery would be unlikely to help my wrist and the scar tissue would in fact make it worse. So I had to weigh up my options and I decided that I didn’t think the surgery would be worth it. The risks are too high.’ A decision which meant Down would have to retire from Wheelchair Fencing.

‘I’ll miss competing but most of all I’ll miss my teammates. The Great Britain Wheelchair Fencing team is more than just a team, we are like a family. I will miss them all enormously.’

GB Wheelchair Fencing Coach, Baldip Sahota said of the news; ‘Fencing has been a big part of Gabi’s life, and as her coach for several years it is a very sad day for me. I wish her all the best for her future and hope she will be able to return to sport one day.’

For now though Down’s plans to focus on her studies having previously put them on hold with hope of her wrist recovering and returning to competition. However, she is also determined to remain fully involved with wheelchair fencing, a sport that she says ‘has given me so much’. 

Chair of the British Disabled Fencing Association, David Heaton commented, ‘We are very sad to hear the news that Gabi has had to take the decision to retire from wheelchair fencing. In her relatively short career Gabi has achieved so much. We are sure that Gabi will be successful in whatever path she decides to take. She has been a great ambassador for our sport and BDFA, we wish her every success in the future.’

Down added, ‘I would like to thank everyone who has played any part in my success, from sponsorship to just supporting. I couldn’t have achieved anything that I have done without the help of so many people.’

From all at IWAS and the IWAS Wheelchair Fencing Executive Committee, we congratulate Gabi on her incredible success throughout her career and wish her all the best for the future.


Photo Credit: Getty Images