Thursday May 07, 2015

Sword-wielding Quebecer takes gold in medieval combat

Béné Robitaille competes at the International Medieval Combat Federation championships.

Béné Robitaille competes at the International Medieval Combat Federation championships. (Courtesy of Béné Robitaille)

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Bénédicte Robitaille picked up her longsword and slashed her way to victory last weekend at the 2015 Medieval Combat World Championships.

Hundreds of heavily-armoured men and women from 25 countries descended on the grounds of Malbork Castle in northern Poland for the event. Robitaille was one of seven Quebecers to participate.

21st century combat is decidedly less bloody than its medieval counterpart. The swords and axes are real -- as is the historically-accurate armour, which can cost upwards of $2000.

"The armour is pretty good," says Robitaille. "So you don't feel a lot. You feel it - but it doesn't hurt."

Rather than battling to the death, tournament participants fight for medals: gold, silver and bronze.

Robitaille brought home two medals in this year's tournament. Her performance with sword and shield earned her silver. She took home the gold in a longsword fight against Poland.

"The Polish (competitor) was pretty good, but some of the other girls were pretty timid on the field," Robitaille said. "I gave them a hard time, I think."

The games are heavily regulated, with a 21-page book of rules on everything from weapon weight specifications to authorized fighting techniques.

The location of next year's event has yet to be announced -- but Robitaille has every intention of competing again. And she expects the pool of competitors to grow.

"I think the people want to know about it and they're pretty impressed because of all the armour... and the weapons," said Robitaille. She was the only woman to travel to Poland this year. But she's optimistic that there will be more female combatants next year -- opening the door for competition in even more events.