Kristjan Archer in action in 2011

GB fencer Kristjan Archer on the pursuit of a return to Paris

For British fencer and Olympics hopeful Kristjan Archer, January’s fencing World Cup in Paris held extra significance.

With the World Cup taking place at the site of the 2024 Olympics, Archer’s lifelong Olympic dream started to feel tangible.

In the build up to the tournament, Archer said: “There’s definitely excitement in the air.

“Everything you see has the Olympic rings on it. 

“You notice the intensity of the athletes is really growing and everyone’s wanting to put in their best efforts and go as hard as they can.”

Although Archer finished 66th in Paris out of nearly 300 athletes, below his top 16 target, he remains optimistic about his qualification chances as he is performing at his best aged 29.

He explained: “I definitely don’t feel as spry as I did when I was in my early 20s.

‘Recovery after a competition takes a lot longer.

“However, I think I’m a lot better tactically.

“When I was younger I had all the energy and athleticism but I wasn’t clear on my targets, on what my tactics and goals were.

“With age I’ve come to know when to press, when to hold, when to attack, when to defend.”

A young Kristjan Archer after winning gold in the UKSG 2011 foil

Archer will be hoping to draw on his experience in his next competitions in Cairo and Washington D.C., after which Team GB will make their Olympic selections.

However, competition is stiff with just one Team GB spot available in Archer’s category, the men’s foil.

He said: “The Olympics has been a lifelong dream for me and I think qualifying would be a testament to all the hard work, every sacrifice made, every extra hour of training, every party missed.

“You’re working non-stop towards a goal for four years, so it’s a massive commitment, and I applaud anyone who’s able to do it year after year for multiple cycles.”

Few have been working harder and longer for this goal than Archer, who has been fencing for almost 20 years having started his journey as a child at Newham Swords fencing club.

Archer said: “Newham is a fantastic club that has been so foundational to British fencing for such a long time.

“I really owe them everything for getting me to where I am today.”

His first coaches, Pierre Harper and Linda Strachan, remain in contact with Archer today and train with him whenever he is in the UK.

Archer is now based with his wife in the USA, but has not forgotten about the coaches who developed his talent as a youngster.

He said: “I did lots of sports when I was younger, my Mum was looking for activities to put me in so that I stopped running around like crazy in the house, and fencing is the one that really stuck.

“I liked how aggressive you could be, but also that you had to remain extremely tactical.

“It’s a one-on-one sport, it’s just you on the line and you have to prove it right there, so I think that’s what I really enjoyed.”

Archer in action in the foil in 2011

The foil, one of the three disciplines of fencing, is the category that Archer took to as a child and still competes in to this day.

Each discipline shares its name with the blade used, however the foil is unique in that the target area consists only of the opponent’s torso.

He explained: “Foil is one of the more dynamic ones, it is a point weapon, so it means you have to stab the opponent and be very patient and wait for your right moment to strike.

“You get these long ranging battles between one another and then really close-quarter dog fights to get that hit.

“You have to be very adaptable and change to how tall your opponent is, how aggressive they are, how fast they are.

“That’s why you work with your coach beforehand and create a game plan similar to boxing – you figure out how we are going to beat this person today.”

Olympic qualification is challenging enough for any athlete, but balancing training with part-time work, while being self-funded, has only made Archer’s dream harder to achieve.

He said: “Luckily, being digital has been great for many athletes because it has allowed us to have some form of income or do some form of high skill work while we’re travelling.

“I’m very grateful that I’ve been able to work part time and also have my wife and family support me as well when needed.”

You can follow Kristjan Archer and his qualification career on Instagram @kristjanarcher

All images credit: Plashing Vole

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