Fitzgerald sits out Schoolies to focus on Rio dream

Published 27 November 2015 (AEDT)

Ned Fitzgerald, Andrea Cassara and Sholto Douglas in Italy © Sholto Douglas

FENCING: Ned Fitzgerald is doing his best to focus on this weekend’s Fencing World Cup event in Turin, Italy, but admits there’s been a few distractions.

Firstly there’s the eye-popping beauty of the Italian countryside and world-famous cities like Milan and Verona.

And then there’s his schoolmates.

Because while Fitzgerald is busy preparing for his first foil World Cup of 2015, his mates are enjoying schoolies.

“I’m on social media, and I’m seeing all these stories of people on schoolies and it looks like they’re having a ripper time,” Fitzgerald said.

“But I had a mini-schoolies a bit earlier, had a bit of fun at the beach and had a good time. I basically got it out of my system.

“Now it’s serious time while everyone else is having fun. But I’m not feeling too sad about it. Like sure, all my friends are currently on schoolies, but I’m in Italy.”

And if everything goes to plan, he could well find himself in Rio next year. He has a lot of work to do, and a handful of fellow Australians all angling for that coveted Olympic spot.

One is Sholto Douglas, who is with Fitzgerald in Turin this week. And the man they are all trying to catch is Victorian Lucas Webber, who got the jump on the rest of the field when he posted a top 64 result at this year’s World Championships.

“This is my first World Cup this year, and the first I’m dong for the Olympic season,” 18-year-old Fitzgerald said.

“We’re just having a crack at trying get the number one ranking in Australia. It’s all about trying to gain enough points at those comps.

“I wasn’t too sure how well I’d be fencing, because I’ve just finished my last year of school, and exams, so I haven’t had much time for training.”

But Fitzgerald is no newbie to major International competitions. He represented Australia at last year’s Youth Olympics, and finished a very credible fifth.

And this week he and Douglas have had the benefit of working with Italian Olympian, Andrea Cassara, who really has gone above and beyond for the two Australian teenagers.

“He picked us up from the airport, has been driving us around, let us train at his club, train with his coach,” Fitzgerald said.

“And then he brought in a few top-class local fencers to train with us. And he’s driving us to the train station this afternoon so we can get to Turin!”

The boys will miss the Australian championships in Canberra this weekend, but Fitzgerald says even though it was a hard decision to make, it’s the right one.

“It was a tough decision, because I won last year, so I’m not getting a chance to defend my title,” he said.

“But doing World Cups is far more important in trying to make the Olympics than going to the national championships.”

Both Fitzgerald and Douglas will return to Australia on Monday, but are planning a return to Europe in January, where the chase for those valuable international points will continue.



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