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Helen Smith

The International Olympic Committee requires at least 20 per cent of women in international federation leadership – why not 50 per cent?

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Fencer Helen Smith is a triple Olympian, Commonwealth champion and nine times Australian champion. She was the first Australian woman to become a qualified Fencing Master at Arms and has coached community-based fencing for over 30 years.

As a 16-year-old participant in this 'non-traditional' sport, she cites her Hungarian-born coach as an inspiration. "Coach encouraged us as athletes, as referees and as coaches," Helen reveals. Recognising her organisational skills and her ability to get things done, Helen became her coach's assistant, helping with paperwork during school and university holidays. "Managing such copious amounts of correspondence showed me all that was going on in the sport, both in Australia and internationally."

Helen was soon propelled more deeply into the world of fencing and her passionate advocacy for more opportunities for women fencers led to one of her proudest achievements - the introduction of the Australian Women's Epee and Sabre Championships - events which allowed Australian women to compete in all three fencing weapons (foil, epee and sabre); an opportunity previously only available to men.

As Australian delegate to the International Fencing Federation at the 2008 International Olympic Committee 4th World Conference on Women in Sport, and as a founding member of the federation's Women and Fencing Commission, Helen continues to address gender issues including increased participation by African, Arabic and Asian women.

Helen was appointed Special Advisor for Women in Fencing to the Confederation of Asia and Member of Honour of the International Fencing Federation in April 2009.

Helen was also the only female appointed by the federation to the Directoire Technique for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

As president of the Oceania Fencing Confederation, Helen's goal is to involve more Pacific nations in fencing, and as president of the Commonwealth Fencing Federation she wants fencing back in the Commonwealth Games.