The chief executive of British Fencing has praised the “equality of opportunity” the sport offers as she became an MBE at Windsor Castle.
Georgina Usher, who fenced professionally for Scotland and Great Britain before taking the role in 2014, hailed the advancements made in the sport over the past four decades to put women on an equal footing with men.
Mrs Usher, who received the honour from the Prince of Wales on Tuesday, told the PA news agency: “When I first started all those years ago, women weren’t allowed to use the weapon that I now fence with. You had to be a certain age to fence and women didn’t have all the disciplines at Olympic level.
“And now we have equality of opportunity. Women can fence all three weapons all the way up to Olympic level so that as a competitor has been a huge change.”
She added: “We have some really exciting opportunities coming up to expand the sport to welcome more people with disabilities so that for me is a huge piece of work that is going to take a large number of years.
“And then we have the Olympics and Paralympics around the corner so there is quite a lot of work to do and prepare the teams. Excitingly, we have an amazing generation of younger athletes coming through.”
During her tenure, Mrs Usher, who has competed at the Commonwealth Games and World Championships, has launched schemes to reach out to under-represented groups including Muslim girls and autistic children.
She said: “When I found fencing I felt very isolated from sports because I wasn’t a naturally gifted or sporty person. And fencing was a sport that I really felt I could be myself.
“I have really focused on looking at other ways the sport can benefit people who would not naturally be given the opportunity. It has this incredible ability to give people self-confidence.”
On receiving the MBE, she added: “I feel so honoured but also I feel that it is all the other people who do the hard work.
“I’m obviously delighted to pick up the award but really the credit must go to so many people in the fencing community and outside of it too.
“This is not just about fencing, it’s about the communities that we have been working with and who have really been so open and receptive.”