Interview with Olympian fencer Sello Maduma

Born in Mamelodi West on the east-side of Tshwane, Sello Maduma is an épée fencer who represented South Africa at the Summer Olympics of 2008 in Beijing and London 2012. caught up with him as he prepared for the Gauteng Open 2014 held in Soweto on the 6th – 7th of December 2014 at the Donaldson Orlando Community Hall in Soweto.  Let’s talk a bit about your background, family and your fondest memory of growing up in your hometown.

SM Answer: I was born and raised in Mamelodi.  I stayed with my grandparents and my mom would come and visit every weekend,I am the eldest of three boys.  One of my fondest memories growing up e’kasi was the fact that I was always surrounded by loving family and always enjoyed going to Mamelodi Sundowns home matches at the HM Pitje stadium with my mother.  How did you get into the sport of fencing?

SM Answer: I used to accompany my friends to their fencing practice at the Mamelodi Fencing Club but would only get to the hall and watch them practice.  That is because I thought fencing clothes were rather stupid.  Then one day I was invited to go to a competition because the club was short of one fencer. After a bit of convincing I went, fenced and was given a proper hiding as i had never fenced before. From the day onwards I have never looked back and I started practicing and grew into the sport.  Explain to us a little bit about the sport.  What are the different formats/disciplines of the sport, and which do you prefer?

SM Answer: Fencing is a contact sport and requires speed, agility and mental strength. It is one of the few original Olympic sports.  There are three disciplines which are known as Epee, Foil and Sabre.  With the EPEE the opponents can score hits or touches on any part of the body (head to toe). With Foil, opponents can only score hits/touches only on the torso. And with Sabre, opponents can only score hits on the upper body by “cutting” instead of stabbing. Let’s talk about the challenges in the sport.  What would you say are some of the difficulties people at your level of the game experience the most?

SM Answer: The most common challenge is funding because a lot of A-Grade competitions take place in Europe and Asia.  The Fencing Federation runs on limited resources. Most of the money from the federation is set aside for development and as an Olympian I cannot be considered as a developing fencer.   And since I do not have a personal sponsor I usually find myself in a difficult position of having to raise funds for international tournaments myself.   Failing which I have to miss competitions and therefore being unable maintain a decent world ranking and high fencing standard. You were at Beijing and London representing South Africa at the Olympics. Tell us more about that experience, what impact has that had on you as an athlete?

SM Answer: Beijing was by far one of my biggest achievements ever.  Becoming an Olympian was a proud moment and to do it as a fencer from e’kasi was extra special.  I got to Compete with 64 of the best fencers from around the world and since then I have become a much better fencer and have since qualified for various international competition and even became the 1st black fencer to win the south African fencing championships.  I  have been in the senior fencing team for the 7 years and still going strong.  Oh plus I met Lionel Messi while I was there. Talk to us about your experience on the recent trip to the Commonwealth Games in Scotland.  How did you perform? And how different was that experience for you as compared to the Olympics Games?

SM Answer: Scotland was exciting for me because it was my first Commonwealth Games.  I competed against 60 fencers and finished in top 8 after losing in quarter finals to the fencer who went on to win the gold medal.  I had set myself a minimum target of top 8 but still would have loved to get a medal.   However as an athlete I know all too well that u win some and lose some but most importantly I learned a lot and I will work harder to do better at the next competition.  The Gauteng Open 2014 is coming up in December, for you as an athlete what kind of preparation goes into an event like that?

SM Answer:  The Gauteng Open is the season opener for 2014/15 and I always try to do my best to start the season on a positive note.  I am preparing extra hard working on a lot of mistakes which I noted during the current season.  This is a special competition for me because it will be the first time a national competition is hosted in a township.  What are your thoughts about what is needed to promote fencing in South Africa?

SM Answer:  Currently there is only one competition in Africa per year and that is the African championship.  And if we are to promote fencing in Africa we certainly have to host more international competitions within the continent and get more kids involved in the sport at school level.  We need to also find innovative ways of attracting government & big business to get involved with the development and promotion of fencing especially in previously disadvantaged areas because I believe that is where talent is hidden.  Tell us more about some of the coaching initiatives you are involved in.

SM Answer:   I have been coaching at the Mamelodi Fencing Club for a few years now but due to work commitments I have been unable to grow the club to the level where it was when I started fencing a couple of years ago.  But I still try to find time whenever I can to make sure that I train the few young people that are there.  I recently founded a club in Cullinan which is closer to where I work.  I am currently coaching about 30 kids who are doing exceptionally well in such a short space of time.  I understand you are a big Mamelodi Sundowns FC supporter.  What do you think are their chances of defending the title this season?

SM Answer: Oh boy! My team has been going through a rough time but I still believe come the 2nd round of the season they will be more consistent and go on to defend the championship.  What do you do when you are not on the piste (floor) and playing with a sword?

SM Answer: I spend so much time at practice and work that I try to go out and socialise as much as I can when I get the chance …  What is your most favourite movie of all time?

SM Answer: Hehehe The Mask Of Zorro…I just can’t seem to get over it. What song in your opinion should be SA’s 2014 song of the year?

SM Answer: I kinda suck at music but am a big fan of “The Soil” and I think Cassper Nyoves’s song  Phumakim is one of the best hits this year. You have been to the Commonwealth and the Olympic.  What personal targets have you set for yourself over the next few years?

SM Answer:  Definitely the next big thing is the Rio Olympics games in 2016 and I am focusing all my energy into qualifying for them. What message of encouragement do you have for people who aspire to be an athlete in SA?

SM Answer:  Work as hard as you can, believe in yourself and most importantly enjoy every moment from club level up to the time you make it to the National team. How can people follow, or contact you for more information about the sport?

SM Answer:     Email address is

Twitter : @sellomaduma

Facebook: Sello fancy fencer Maduma

Instagram: Sello Maduma (@maduma1rsa)

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