Connie Adam   1927-2021

Connie Adam photo

Connie Adam, winner of 17 European medals and one world, has died at the age of 93 after a long battle with cancer. She was brought up in Norwich and her broad Norfolk accent was always a pleasure to hear on fencing trips. After getting married at the age of 20, she spent 20 years being a housewife, trying to fit in part-time work and bring up three children on very little money.

After her husband died and her children left home, she got a job teaching dance styles, including ballroom, latin, disco and tap.

During her early 60s, she spotted an advert in the local paper for fencing courses at Norfolk Fencing Club. She was looking for a new hobby and just got hooked. "I wanted to do something to keep fit and went along to one of those 'have a go' days", she said. She proved to have a natural talent for the sport, winning her first European veteran championship medal at the age of 66 and making new friendships all over the world.

"Good hand and eye co-ordination is the key for me and keeping focused", she would say." People often ask me what I think about when I'm fencing, but you can't think of anything at all except avoiding being hit and trying to hit them first. The moment you start to think about what you're cooking for dinner that night, then wham, you get hit."

Those of us who travelled with Connie all have memories of what fun she was to be with. Silvia Brown remembers that at one competition, when there was a long wait while the men fenced, she was one of a trio who went round with pen and paper evaluating the men's bottoms! It was generally agreed that the sabreurs ranked supreme, but the overall winner was the late Frank Mills; he was delighted to win the accolade.

Connie was part of 'Henry's Army' who accompanied Henry de Silva on fencing trips to various countries. He remembers the group visiting the Sun City resort in South Africa where there was a steep and perilous water slide. Connie was the only one brave enough to go down it.

My own special memory of Connie is of her coming to my rescue in St Petersburg, which some of us were visiting after the 2003 Moscow European championships. We were about to board a train on the underground when I felt my arms pinned to my sides as a gang of thieves started to go through my pockets. 75-year-old Connie sprang into action, shouting and striking out at them. They quickly ran off.

The expression "I've been Connied" became commonplace and gained international renown. An American competitor at one world championships was seen sporting a T-shirt saying "I've been Connied!" The next year the word "Again" was added.

For many years Connie was the oldest competitor in her age group, since 70+ was the highest category. At the 2011 world championships in Porec, at the age of 83, she beat five of her eight younger opponents in a poule unique to collect a bronze medal, her first at world level.

Two years later, The Sword reported that at the European championships in Terni, "The irrepressible Connie Adam, at 85 the oldest fencer in the championships, scored three victories in her 11-strong 70+ women's epee poule and then won two DE fights 10-9 before losing to Janet Cooksey and finishing with a bronze medal. She collected another by being one of only four women over 70 to appear with sabre in hand."

At the age of 90 she decided to give up international fencing, because carrying 18 kilos of epee and sabre kit became too much for her, to say nothing of the travel costs and hotel bills, which all came out of her basic pension. But she still enjoyed travelling and regularly stayed with her daughter Pamela in Italy, spending a month there only last September.

Asked about her proudest achievements, she answered: "Coming third in the World veterans sabre championship of 2011, being selected as an Olympic torch bearer in 2012 and winning two bronze medals at the European veterans epee and sabre championships of 2013 when I was 85. But my proudest moment of all was being the first woman to be given the Freedom of the City of Norwich."

For 800 years only men had been given the freedom of the city, a privilege that could then be claimed by their sons, but not by their daughters. For 10 years Connie, whose father was a freeman, campaigned for the right to be admitted to this exclusive group. Only with the passing of new legislation - the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act - did it become possible for women to join the ranks of their fathers. Because of her surname, Connie Adam became the first freewoman of Norwich at a civic ceremony on 20th March 2010.

Medals won European World
1993 (60+) Epee Bronze
1999 (70+) Epee Gold & Foil Bronze
2001 Epee & Foil Silver
2003 Epee Gold & Foil Silver
2005 Epee Gold & Sabre Silver
2007 Sabre Silver & Epee Bronze
2009 (now 80, but in 70+ category) Epee & Sabre Bronze
2011 Epee & Sabre Bronze Sabre Bronze
2013 (85, but still in 70+ category) Epee & Sabre Bronze

Malcolm Fare

 

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