Tributes paid to inspirational fencer Connie, after death at 93

Sports Person of the Year finalist Connie Adam. Pic: Maurice Gray

Connie Adam won numerous medals and awards during her years fencing. - Credit: Archant

Former international fencer Connie Adam, who fought a campaign which led to her becoming the first-ever Lady Freeman of Norwich, has died at the age of 93.

She will be particularly remembered for her determination, zest for life and humour – but also for an extraordinary life.

A perfect example of staying fit in later life, Connie was an ambassador for Active Norfolk and in 2017 (in her late 80s) featured in the University of East Anglia's Sportspark’s ‘This Girl Can’ poster campaign.

During the first lockdown last year, instead of turning to sedentary pursuits, the great-grandmother, who lived in various parts of Norwich throughout her life, decided to take up hula-hooping. She also took pride in her garden, often offering plants and produce to friends.

Over the years she enjoyed dancing, badminton, archery and skiing, but it was fencing, which she discovered around the age of 60, which became her real passion – and she continued active participation in the sport until 2019.

Veteran fencer Connie Adam. Photo: Bill Smith

Veteran fencer Connie Adam. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2012

The sport enabled her to make friends far and wide, but especially at the Norwich-based Norfolk Fencing Club where she trained, and it took her to competitions around the UK and the world.

During her fencing career, she earned more than 140 medals and represented Great Britain in major championships, winning a bronze medal at the World Veteran Championships in 2011, held in Croatia.

Connie had the honour of being chosen as a torch bearer in the 2012 Olympic relay, taking the flame from the end of Castle Meadow down to Cathedral Close. She loved the experience, saying it made her feel like a queen for the day.

Connie Adam takes over the Olympic torch relay from Norwich Castle.

Connie Adam takes over the Olympic torch relay from Norwich Castle. - Credit: Bill Smith

Connie’s father was a Freeman of the City of Norwich, but she was disappointed to learn that women were not allowed that honour. So, she spearheaded a campaign to get women included as Freemen. It took almost 10 years of lobbying but, in 2010, several hundred women attended a ceremony allowing them to be recognised as Freemen of Norwich.

Connie, pictured in 2000, protesting for the right for women to become Freemen.

Connie, pictured in 2000, protesting for the right for women to become Freemen. - Credit: Steve Adams

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Fittingly, Connie had the honour of being the very first, as her surname began with A.

Having lived in the city all her life, including during the war years, during which her house was bombed, the honour was a point of pride.

Connie Adam with her silver medal. Photo: Maurice Gray

Connie Adam with one of her many medals. - Credit: Archant

She memorably appeared as the mystery guest on Russell Howard's show, teaching the comedian some fencing moves, and she also took part in a TV programme about senior citizen motorists and shone – unsurprisingly as she had been a chauffeur for several decades.

Driving also featured earlier in her life too. At 17 she became a part-time taxi driver, and believed she was probably the only woman doing this in the city at that time.

Connie Adam with her collection of sporting medals. Picture: Maurice Gray

Connie Adam with her collection of sporting medals. Picture: Maurice Gray - Credit: Archant

Then, after getting married to Jimmy in 1947, she started delivering the Eastern Daily Press for a local newsagent, using his van. She would collect the papers from the EDP office, deliver round the Thorpe area, and then sell some to the night shift as they clocked off at Laurence and Scott’s at breakfast time.

A previous job working on a bottling machine for Steward and Patteson’s brewery had ended, under company policy, when she got married at the age of 20. She later packed chocolates for Mackintosh.

The couple had three children, Pamela, Robert and Ian – and once they were all of school age she applied for the part-time chauffeur role, which lasted 27 years and sometimes involved journeys to Buckingham Palace and Sandringham.

Connie Adam, still winning fencing medals at the age of 85. Photo: Bill Smith

Connie Adam, pictured aged 85. - Credit: Archant © 2011

She contributed to The Common Lot’s show in 2018 about radical and influential women of Norwich. And her name was on one of the blue stones placed across Norwich last month to celebrate the achievements of local women on International Women's Day.

In October last year, she was one of 25 sports people featured in the EDP’s 150th anniversary pick of people who had lit up Norfolk life over the past 150 years.

Truly inspirational, Connie Adam epitomised the ‘this girl can’ mantra.

She will be greatly missed by her family and many friends.

Connie Adam playing badminton. Picture: Maurice Gray

Connie Adam playing badminton. Picture: Maurice Gray - Credit: Archant

Fencing club's tribute

In a tribute to Connie, Norfolk Fencing Club described her as a "charismatic" woman who first started fencing after trying a local session.

"This was the start of an unexpected new era in her life which took her around the world and lasted until she retired in 2019," it said.

The group said Connie took every opportunity to participate in local competitions, but that her "vast medal collection" came from her involvement with British Veterans, with which she travelled the world.

"Her main weapons were the epee and sabre with which she was willing to take on any within her age categories," she said. "It was reported on one occasion ‘The Sword’ 1999 that she was asked to withdraw from the younger age category in case she embarrassed the other younger participants by winning.

"Her dedication to the sport was illustrated when she underwent surgery for knee replacements. She persuaded her surgeon to do both at the same time, not something he was accustomed to doing, because she wanted to get fit for a forthcoming international fencing competition.

"Needless to say, she achieved this. Whilst her mobility reduced, she maintained good hand eye coordination and her parry ripostes were not to be underestimated

"Norfolk and fencing have lost one of its inspirational characters but her spirit will live on amongst those who have known her."

Connie Adam, pictured aged 74, in her fencing gear.

Connie Adam, pictured aged 74, in her fencing gear. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

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