Role Models - Mhairi McLaughlin

During June, sportscotland are celebrating Role Models and the impact that they can have on their sport and wider community. At Scottish Fencing, we understand that there are many people throughout our community that act as role models to their peers. Today, we bring you Mhairi's story...



It's been a long, challenging but ultimately worthwhile journey for me so far. It took me many years of fencing on the British circuit before finally reaching #1 in the rankings and being selected for GBR for Euros and Worlds. I didn't set out to try and be #1, but set small goals that allowed me to measure my progress. I saw myself achieve these small goals, get better and better and eventually become #1. Being from Scotland, I occasionally felt like an outsider on the circuit, and had to really fight well to get noticed. I feel like I have worked hard enough now, and achieved enough successes, that I cannot be ignored.


How Did You Start Fencing?


I started fencing completely by accident! There was a taster session at my school, Fox Covert RCPS. It was really fun and was something that I wanted to continue doing. I was 10 when I started going to the local class, in Corstorphine. I was nervous because none of my friends went, and for the first two years I fenced once per week for an hour. By the time I was 12, I had competed a couple of times and my coach, John McKenzie, thought I had some potential. I joined Salle Holyrood in 2012 and have been training more often ever since.


What has kept you fencing?


My love for the sport, which gets you through the hard times! The feeling I get when I win a fight is not something you can get from anywhere else. My life would be boring without it! Fencing has become such a massive part of my life, it would not feel the same if I did not come in from school or university then go back out to training five or six times per week.


Career Highlight (so far!)


Becoming British u23 Champion. I went down to the event without high expectations, and knew I had to fence girls in their last year of u23. Winning, and becoming British u23 Champion, made me feel like I had finally reached my potential. It also put me back on track for the Senior Opens, Commonwealths and Junior World Cups.What / why / how did you start fencing?


What are some of the challenges you have faced in your fencing journey?


I really lacked confidence when I first started, and it was difficult when I first joined Salle Holyrood. It was hard because it was mostly boys and I struggled to settle in, even though the club members were all very friendly and welcoming. It only took a short while before I made friends and settled in.


My biggest challenge nowadays is affording the travel and other costs necessary to compete at the highest level. Last season was my first Junior season and, although I got selected for Junior World Cup events, I could not afford to go. Other girls were getting points, putting me further behind and making me drop down the rankings. This was frustrating because I knew I could do well, but could only afford to go to one of the three events I was selected for.


Who is your role model? Why?


The people that inspire me the most are definitely the strong women I see in the sporting world like Serena Williams and Valentina Vezzali. Serena Williams is not just one of the best female tennis players of all time but one of the best tennis players of all time. Her achievements are incredible including winning her 23rd grand slam whilst pregnant, showing that womanhood does not get in the way of athleticism.

Valentina Vezzali is a fencing and sporting icon, she is the pinnacle of every fencers goals with 6 Olympic gold medals and I aspire to have even a fragment of her success. But the thing I respect the most is the length of her career, winning her last Olympic gold medal at 39, after dominating the sport for 10+ years already. Her dedication to and obvious love of the sport is insane and I hope I can keep the same passion alive for just as long. 

Scottish Fencing is proud of Mhairi McLaughlin and her achievements to date. For more information on the clubs mentioned in this article, or if you are interested in joining a fencing club, please contact Blair Cremin, Pathways Manager at