JULIA Bracewell began fencing in her back garden aged five. Yesterday, she cut her way into the upper echelons of Scottish sport, when she was named chairwoman of sportscotland, succeeding Alastair Dempster.

The appointment was announced by Patricia Ferguson, minister for tourism, culture and sport.

Ms Bracewell, whose father, Professor Bert Bracewell, was Scotland's national fencing coach for 16 years, won Commonwealth foil championships in 1986 and 1990.

She also represented Great Britain at the Barcelona Olympics (1992) , World Championships (1990) and European Championships (1991).

Yet she knows all about poor facilities. The national fencing academy where her father worked was a converted stable at Kirkliston.

Ms Bracewell, who has an OBE, is a legal consultant and non-practising solicitor and barrister. In her bar exams she won the Law of International Trade Prize and HLT Prize for Outstanding Results.

Before returning to Scotland, she was an international corporate lawyer in London for 15 years and a partner in two American law firms.

She was a member of the Sports Council of Great Britain and its successor, Sport England (1993-2001) and chaired the women and sport advisory group. She was also chairwoman of the international drafting group for the Brighton Declaration on Women's Rights in Sport (1994).

Ms Bracewell enjoys golf and sailing, and fulfilled a dream in 1995 when she sailed across the Atlantic on a Whitbread boat.

The sportscotland appointment is for four years, until 30 June 2009. The salary is [pounds]27,531 for two and half days a week. One of her first tasks will be to preside over the thorny question of relocation of sportscotland's headquarters at the Gyle, Edinburgh.