FENCER Silvia Earl bounced back from early defeat to become Huntingdonshire’s newest European champion.

FENCER Silvia Earl bounced back from early defeat to become Huntingdonshire's newest European champion.

Earl, 64, of Old Weston, won gold in category three for sabre at the Veterans European Fencing Championships in France.

But her involvement in the tournament at Henin-Beaumont was hanging in the balance after she lost her first bouts, pitting her against the number one seed in the first direct elimination.

A tough battle with a German fencer was followed by a comfortable 10-1 win in the semi-final.

The deciding fight was held "en gala", on a raised piste in front of the crowds, where she faced experienced German international Bridget Greunke.

Roared on by the British fans, Earl had a 5-2 lead at the break and was able to maintain her lead to win with the last hit - a parry and riposte to secure the title.

"The British supporters were very loud in their encouragement , which spurred me on to a lead at the break," said Earl.

"I was very proud that some of my fellow sabreurs commented it was the best sabre they had seen me fence."

Her win helped the Great Britain team to the top of the medal table at the event, but there was personal satisfaction for Earl.

"Being able to wake up in the morning and think 'I'm the European Champion' is so great - what a terrific way to start the day!"

More than 1,200 fencers entered, in categories from age 40+ to age 70+.

For Earl, who also fences in foil and epee, it was yet more success in a sport she returned to six years ago following a 20-year break.

She has travelled the world with her sabre, and was part of the British team that took gold at the Edinburgh Commonwealth Competition in 2005, and two years later collected her first European gold in Switzerland. World Championship bronze in France in 2008 was followed in 2009 by another bronze in the European Championships in Hungary.