En Garde! Meet The French Fencer Turning Heads
Meddy Elice's speed and unorthodox fencing style often catch his opponents by surprise.
"Snapshots" is a series that checks in with neighbourhood athletes around the world.
Guadeloupe-born Meddy Elice brings a loose, casual and sometimes funky flair to fencing. Sure, the aristocratic sport of kings has always been about swashbuckling style, but Meddy brings his own modern twist.
After watching the 24-year-old in action at the Eric Tabarly sports complex—the world-class multi-sports facility just outside Paris where he trains—we ask him how he brings his idiosyncratic style to the traditional discipline.
Fencing is often thought of as elitist. Do you see it that way?
The equipment costs an arm and a leg, but you do find very fortunate people like myself, from humble beginnings—my mum used to work at City Hall and my dad was a mechanic—involved in the sport.
Why and how did you start fencing?
After weeks of getting up to mischief at home, refusing to do our chores, our mum decided we would be joining sports clubs to balance our hyperactivity. In the club she chose for us, there was karate, judo and fencing classes. I was definitely more attracted to martial arts and at first, I wanted [to learn] karate. My older brother, on the other hand, had a much more precise idea. He knew from the get-go that he wanted to learn to be a fencer, having been inspired by Guadeloupe's iconic summer games champion Laura Flessel. Probably a little in love too. She inspired an entire generation with her successes at different summer games [Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004] where she raked in a total of five medals. For those of us from Guadeloupe, she's part of the family.
Tell us about your family. You have several older brothers, right?
My older brothers are all very different when it comes to interacting with me and helping me. The oldest, [Jerry] is most like a father with me. He checks in regularly, makes sure I'm all right and keeps his encouragement very vague. He wants me to be very serious about my life as an adult and what will happen after sport. Morgan has brought me a lot of joy. He's always pushing me to be positive. Mike is never competitive with me. He's always pushing me in the right way. That's my mother in him. She would tell us all to be proud of ourselves, but never to feel that we were superior to anybody else. Humility is the backbone of our family.
Which style of fencing do you favour?
My weapon of choice is the foil sword. It is the most commonly used weapon in our sport. It's a weapon of precision, so you need to be quick while remaining patient. Foil fencing has the most classical technique; however, I cannot say that my style is classical. My main quality is that I am very fast, which allows me to surprise my opponent, but I sometimes fail to be patient in sequences. I'm very unorthodox and, if I do say so myself, airy—there's an element of lightness to my style, and I love that. I've been called funky, freestyle or whimsical in the way I compete.
"I've been called funky, freestyle or whimsical in the way I compete".
The general perception of Paris and fencing is that they're both very elegant and stylish. How does style factor in your life?
I love fencing for its stylishness. Paris has helped me reaffirm my own personal style. I had to change styles after coming here from the West Indies. I like things that are pretty accessible and beautiful. I love going to an art show, or a photography exhibit to hone my eye and see different things.
Words: Massaër Ndiaye
Photography: Manuel Obadia-Wills
Reported: September 2020