Bring on Rio, says fencing hero Tom

Somercotes Paralympian Tom Hall Butcher is hoping for success in the sabre class of wheelchair fencing.
Somercotes Paralympian Tom Hall Butcher is hoping for success in the sabre class of wheelchair fencing.

‘Bring on Rio’ were the fighting words declared by wheelchair fencer Tom Hall-Butcher after missing out on a medal at the Paralympics.

The sensational Somercotes athlete was agonisingly edged out by his last 16 opponent Meng Chai Cheong, of Hong Kong, in the individual sabre category of the competition on Thursday.

But the 22-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, has now set his sights on the next Games in four years – where he hopes to finish in a podium spot.

Tom said: “I kind of see myself getting through a few more rounds in the next year or so – by the time I get to Rio I should be in medal contention.”

The former Swanwick Hall School pupil said there are positives to take from disappointment at London 2012, especially after he started the competition well, beating Ukrainian Vadym Tesryk, ranked 7th in the world, in his opening pool match.

He said: “I couldn’t really predict how well I would do in the competition - I’ve never competed in anything like this before.

“Everyone is so different in the Paralympics - people really bring their best game.

“I expected that if I lost I would be put out and miserable – but I really wasn’t, I kind of expected it.

“I was happy with what I did, there was a bit of disappointment though.”

After competing at the Excel arena in London Tom, who said he usually fights in front of slim audiences, was mobbed by autograph hunters.

But he said the experience is unlikely to change him as a person.

“I’m not a celebrity,” he said. “But people know I exist now at least!”

But it is back to normality now for Tom, who is going to put sport on hold slightly for the next 12 months.

On September 26 the history and archeology student will return to Birmingham University to complete his final year.

He said: “This year it’s all about getting the best in my university degree – I won’t stop fencing but I will go to competitions in the holidays.”

The busy young man still returns home to see his family, including mum Catherine, in Somercotes when he can.

Tom took up fencing when he was 11 years old and is hoping his sporting success will inspire other local youngsters with disabilities to compete.

“It was just one of the most unique things I have ever done in my life,” he said reflecting on his London 2012 experience.

“I’ve never really had crowds interested in me before, as we walked into that stadium for the first time, there were just thousands of people cheering for us, it was the most public thing I have ever done in my life!”