Image Credits: @EnaArora
As with most young athletes in the current fencing climate, Ena Arora has already proven herself to be a more than solid epee specialist, succeeding against the odds will be a testament not only to her abilities but also her character.
“It takes great courage to pick up a sword but greater courage to use it.” Those words depict the life of a fencer. Ena Arora is like other plenty more exciting young talents, have demonstrated both exemplary talent and tireless dedication to the sport, and well truly established herself as one of the Indian fencing brightest stars.
Coming from the well-respected family, Ena Arora has a pedigree that suggests she will be successful as a professional. Even at the very young age, Ena Arora knew a career in sport was already beckoning. Having played tennis, swimming, roller skating and badminton in her early teens, and with so many options open to her, fencing came calling by way of her father. She began to love the sport and also found a change within herself as her love for the sport began to increase.
Ena Arora made the first foray into international fencing in 2009 when she participated in the Child World Cup held at Alanya, Turkey. And the first international medal came in 2015 – winning Team silver medal at the Junior Commonwealth Championship held at Cape Town, South Africa and followed by a Team bronze medal in 2016-at the Thailand Open Championship held at Bangkok, Thailand.
Now, after years of experience and an unmatchable work ethic, the girl from Patiala has just begun to scratch the surface of her fencing, making multiple Senior National Teams, winning a fair share of national medals, and in 2019 two team gold medals in foil and epee at the Inter-University held at Amritsar; and an Individual gold and team silver at the senior national championship held at Guwahati; followed by a dominant performance in the 2019 South Asian Games held in Kathmandu, Nepal to win Team Gold.
And in 2020, she won team gold medal and individual rank 9 at the senior national championship held at New Delhi; and a team silver medal and individual rank 5 at the Khelo India University Games held at Bhubaneshwar, and a team gold medal and an individual bronze medal at the Inter-University held at Chandigarh.
However, her most defining moment of the fencing career came when she clinched the national title in 2019. She said she was neither amongst the favourites, nor did anybody think that she would win it, in the end, she took the gold medal home. As they rightly say – victory tastes sweeter when nobody thought you would make it.
The fencing only tells part of her story though. In a sport that can attract many egos, Ena Arora has remained humble, hard-working, and most importantly– no fencer has more fun than her in competition.
The 23-year-old fencer, who is most easily summed up as an counter-attacking fencer with excellent defensive attributes, possesses a brilliant sense of timing, speed and reads situations very well; she is quick, and often cuts out the situation before it arises. Moreover, her coubter-attacking strengths make her a very potent weapon in the field, which is essential in fencing that focuses on pace and transitions.
Foil, epee and sabre are the three weapons used in the sport of fencing. While it is not unusual for fencers to compete in all three events, an athlete typically chooses to hone their skills in one weapon. This constant flitting between sports does lead to the question over which is Ena’s favourite. However, she says she loves epee but also hold a soft spot for foil.
The SASM College of law under Punjabi University, Patiala, student has already proven she has the ability and individuality to shine on a bigger stage, in the coming years, the exceptional talent of Ena Arora will be on show for all to see on the biggest stages, she will face stiff competition from the fellow fencers, this can serve as motivation for her to improve and success under these odds will be a testament not only to Ena Arora’s abilities but also her character.
You are very young, and have quite a few titles under your belt, and I am sure it must have been a quite rollercoaster journey, so tell us about how you got into fencing at the first place, what inspired you as a child to take up professional fencing?
During my childhood, I was very interested in sports and I used to take part in my school sports activities. Besides that, I have played sports like tennis, swimming, roller skating and badminton before I got into fencing.
My dad introduced me to fencing. I didn’t know what kind of sport it was back in 2008, but once I understood Fencing, there has been no looking back. The way it is played, the movements and techniques, everything altogether has kept me fascinated towards this amazing sport.
At the time I started fencing, I was inspired by my seniors like Shammipreet Kaur, Komalpreet Shukla, Jasmine Dua, at NSNIS, Patiala. Their passion towards the sport, their attitude and also their determination for winning come what may were a few things that I really admired as a kid.
We all know that you are successful in your sport. But the first win and the first medal is always special. Do you remember your 1st success as a fencer? If yes, how will you describe that moment?
I remember my very first achievement was being selected for sub-junior (U-14) national after winning a silver medal at the State Championship after just a few days of beginning with the training.
I wasn’t sure as to what I really felt at that very moment, I was excited as it was my first win, nervous as I had to prepare for the nationals and a bit upset as I lost in the finals by a close margin. Looking back at it now, I feel absolutely glad that my fencing journey started on a good note.
Is there any specified coach or person who has been always inspiring you to continue fencing or who has been a constant guide to your career from a very young age?
My dad had always wanted me to be a sportswoman. Even I showed a keen interest in sports from a very young age. Things kept on unfolding at their pace and my father guided me at every twist and turn.
Did you experience any kind of resistance that you thought would hinder your progression? On an emotional, physical or personal level?
I have had quite a lot many injuries in a short span of time, which at one point made me a little pessimist regarding fencing, due to which I felt physically as well as mentally weak, but I am glad that I made out of that phase and stood victorious in nationals, encouraging me to do better at the international competitions.
Among the three which is your favourite – foil, épée, and sabre?
I love epee but I also hold a soft spot in my heart for foil as I used to play foil in the initial years of my fencing career. So, in competitions like Inter-University and Inter-College, where you are sometimes allowed to compete in 2 events, it is foil that I love participating and winning other than epee.
What’s it like owning fencing tools? Any particular challenges or perks?
I feel like a fighter going to war with my fencing equipment. The biggest challenge that is faced by fencers all over is that fencing stuff is expensive. Along with that, the fencing kit is of an uncomfortable size such that it becomes a little difficult while travelling. On the other hand, it gives you an elite feel when people think of it as an actual sword and get scared but it feels disheartening at the same time that the people of a country with such a rich warrior history barely know of this being a sport of modern times.
What's the most random/funny thing you've ever done in fencing during training?
I have this weird habit of tapping my feet (as if I were to start tap dancing) when I lose a point due to my stupidity while trying different things. It looks as funny as it sounds.
Best or worst thing about being a fencer?
The best thing about being a fencer is, that whenever I hold my epee, I feel an instant rush of happy hormones which leads to stress reduction. The mind is focused on the game and the body is responding to the brain’s decision so it is like a win-win situation for anyone to fence.
Has practising fencing benefited you in everyday life as well?
Of course, it has, there are so many benefits of fencing which help in real life as well. The foremost being increased mental agility and increased coordination. Fencing is often referred to as physical chess, where bouts are won in split-second physical and mental decisions as well as psychological observations of opponent’s gameplay. Also, fencing requires the body to move in a full range but in a control and coordinated manner helping the body to be in a state of discipline all the time. Other than that, aerobic fitness, good balance and increased peripheral vision are some other pros of fencing.
Fencing is a sport which requires extreme concentration and focus. If you lose even 0.01% of it, you miss the target. how do you manage to maintain both under pressure situations?
When I am on the fencing piste, and am in a full winning mode, the world fades away, all I can think of is how to fence for each point and not let my opponent make hits on me. Under pressure situations, I try to think of each point and not total 15 points, that way, the pressure lightens itself. It is basically a mind game that you play with your brain, I tell myself – “just one more point,” that way you are able to concentrate better.
When a person is passionate about something, that thing is like a life for him. We all know that you are extremely passionate about fencer. What are your feelings when you take the equipment in your hands?
I would like to put in a famous fencing quote here – “It takes great courage to pick up a sword but greater courage to use it.” I think this quote defines my feelings in the best possible way. Once you hold your equipment in your hand, you don’t want to disappoint it. There are some days when you feel low, but you have to overcome all that is going on inside and give your best at the piste.
How would you describe your fencing to someone who has never seen you fence? What are your greatest strengths as a fencer and what areas do you need to work on the most?
I am more of a counter-attack person. So, my strength I would say is patience as I wait for the right time to react, areas I need to work hard on the most is my physical fitness because when your body gets tired, it affects the ability to make good decisions quickly. I believe if I get better fitness-wise, I would be able to play better and make good use of my brain.
Do you have a defining moment of your career? What's your best fencing memory?
My defining moment of fencing career would be becoming the national champion in 2019. I was neither amongst the favourites, nor did anybody think that it would be me, taking the gold medal home. Thus, it is my best fencing memory, as they rightly say – victory tastes sweeter when nobody thought you would make it.
What are your plans and goals for your life in fencing? How do you see your future in the sport? Do you plan to stay involved in fencing for many years?
I can never think of discontinuing fencing ever, there might come some breaks and pauses, but I plan to fence for as long as I can. If everything goes fine, I want to win an individual medal for my country and also participate in veteran fencing competitions when I would be free from all other responsibilities.
And finally, I was just wondering, have you ever had any trouble in airports trying to bring swords on planes?
Yes, obviously, owing to the extra-large size of the kit bag, and sometimes airport staff thinking of swords as actual swords, it gets a tad tough explaining them the situation.
Your favourite Indian fencer?
Sunil Jakhar and Ajinkya Dudhare
Your favourite foreign fencer?
Erika Kirpu from my event and Olga Kharlan from sabre
What is your go-to touch / hit?
I love to make a touch under the opponent’s hand, whenever I get a chance, I try this one
Music preference before bout?
Music that is upbeat with motivational lyrics to pump me up.