Double world glory for Durham student

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Josh Waddell, a Collingwood student studying psychology at Durham University, has become a double World Champion over two consecutive days at the U23-Wheelchair Fencing World Championships in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand. 

On 22nd April, he secured his first championship title in Foil (one of three fencing disciplines), winning 15-6 against Sean Glass (HKG) in the final. Josh dominated over the entire day, dropping just 23 hits while scoring 70. The following day, he defended his 2023 world title, clinching victory in Épée (a second discipline) against Phoopa Sae-Sim (THA) in a nail-biting final, winning by one hit with a score of 15-14. 

These achievements bring his combined total to four world championship titles, having become U17 World Champion in Épée in Shajar, UAE, in 2019 and U23 World Champion in Épée in Busan, South Korea, in 2023. Josh is now ranked 1st in the world for U23 men’s Épée and Foil, dominating the men’s Épée circuit with 160 points—almost double the next person who has 85 points.

Josh is now ranked 1st in the world for U23 men’s Épée and Foil

Reflecting on his performance, Josh said: “Getting two world titles is great, but the achievement is still a part of my learning in both this success and challenges throughout the day. We still keep looking to learn.”

Journey to Paris 2024 Olympics

Josh began his studies at Durham in September 2021, which he has postponed as he commits his focus to the Paris 2024 Olympic qualifications. 

Born and raised in Sunderland, Josh was scouted by Laszlo Jakab, Durham’s head coach, when he was seven years old. Laszlo and coach Rit Sutera have been Josh’s primary coaches from day one, with Rit Sutera accompanying Josh to every international competition. Rit and Laszlo have trained several Olympic, Commonwealth and National Champions, including Durham alumnus Gemma Collis, a 15-time Wheelchair World Cup Medalist and 3-time Paralympian.

Josh’s training programme is intense. He averages seven hours of fencing training a day, six days a week, with cardio, gym and physio separate. He also makes regular trips to Bath, where he trains with other Team GB athletes. When asked if he would be celebrating his two World Championship titles upon his return to Durham, Josh responded: “I’ve got Brazil in a few weeks so unfortunately not.” Josh is undoubtedly a man of sheer dedication to his craft.

The reason why I train so hard on this journey is because I enjoy the process in its entirety

Brazil is the next and final Olympic individual qualifying event, taking place in São Paulo on May 22nd. With one individual event and two team qualifiers remaining, Josh is approaching the climax of his 15-year fencing journey. He is currently ranked 28th in the world for the men’s individual category A in Épée and is part of GBR’s Épée Team, ranked 4th in world rankings.

Josh wrote to the Palatinate: 

“If there’s one thing I would want people to know about my journey to the Paralympics and to becoming double world champ, it would be the need to enjoy the process and to have the ability to really be present in the here and now. The reason why I train so hard on this journey is because I enjoy the process in its entirety in both the successes and failures it has given me. The ability to be present and to realise that there is no where else I would rather be and nothing else I would rather being doing. The outcome then becomes irrelevant and you learn to value the opportunity you have today and not regret what you should have done if you weren’t nerves or scared to do something.”

We wish Josh the best of luck on his Olympic journey.

Image: SPADT

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