Una Jackson has accomplished many things in her 74 years. She has walked on the Great Wall of China, skied the Olympic Course in Sapporo, Japan, and taken a hot balloon ride over the savannahs of Africa.
But her most recent achievement may have trumped them all.
Jackson, a former Haverhill resident, is the top-ranked women's fencer in the nation for the 70-and-over saber division.
Jackson, who now lives in Hilton Head, S.C., has taken up fencing in her post-retirement life. One day, she was sitting and watching a sports show when a certain sport piqued her interest
"A commercial came on which flashed a series of different sports," said Jackson. "Fencing just kind of stuck out at me."
Jackson decided that this was something she wanted to learn more about. She was already in peak physical condition from working out three days a week, running and playing tennis. She explored where the nearest opportunities would be and found the Savannah Fencing Club in Savannah, Ga. in 2008. At the club, she is the elder statesman of the fencers, and she often practices and trains with fencers in their early-20s who attend the Savannah College of Art and Design.
"For someone to come in at this age and have all this success is remarkable," said her coach Charles Williams, who teaches her at the club.
Williams said while others her age may have the edge in experience, Jackson "is much faster than her opponents because she is in great physical condition."
At first, she dabbled in the foil form of the sport. Foil is more of a stabbing motion and is generally taught to beginners. In foil, fencers can only hit their opponents in the vest. Jackson struggled in her first foil tournament in November 2008 in Bluffton, S.C. She then decided add saber to her repertoire, a faster-paced type of fencing which allows the fencers to score with hits to the arms and mask. Jackson immediately found success in February 2009, although she doesn't take much credit for it.