En garde! Fencing set for Olympic moment

Brian Miller
Posted 7/12/12

ARVADA — It may burst some bubbles, but true fencing isn’t what Zorro, Captain Jack Sparrow or even Inigo Montoya did on the big screen. This is …

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En garde! Fencing set for Olympic moment


ARVADA — It may burst some bubbles, but true fencing isn’t what Zorro, Captain Jack Sparrow or even Inigo Montoya did on the big screen.

This is the first reality that those in the fencing community want the public to understand. Fencing is actually an elegant sport, but one bound by rules and

proper technique.

With the 2012 Summer Olympics set to begin July 28, fencing is one of the 28 sports that will be on display in London. Fencing’s followers are sure to be eager to witness the world’s best engage one another on the sport’s biggest stage, competing in the three styles of épée, foil and sabre.

At Colorado Fencing Academy (CFA) in Arvada, a club that focuses on sabre, instructors think they may see an influx of newcomers because of the attention the Olympics generates. That said, it’s important to understand what comes

with fencing.

“We’re currently in a rebuilding phase. Most fencing clubs tend to follow a four-year cycle,” CFA President Aaron Severance said. “Kids will join, especially when fencing’s big in movies.

“They’ll stick around for three to six months until they figure that sabre fencing really isn’t the same thing as they see Johnny Depp doing on the screen.”

Still, those who are interested will certainly be tuning in later this month. Fencing has been part of each Summer Olympics since the very first games in 1896 in Athens. Led by France and Italy, countries have been awarded some 571 medals since that time.

While épée and foil may draw the most participants, sabre is gaining in popularity in the United States. Mariel Zagunis, of the Oregon Fencing Alliance, has captured the past two gold medals in women’s sabre, and the 2008 bronze medalist, Becca Ward, actually got her start at the Colorado Fencing Academy 12 years ago.

“In the last eight years anyway, fencing has been getting more visibility in the U.S., most significantly due to the fact that women’s sabre fencing has been active in the Olympics for the last eight years,” Severance said. “We’ve had the gold-medal winner the last two times around.”

Sabre involves targeting areas only above the waist, excluding the hands. Competitors wear protective gear to avoid injury, and scoring is done electronically.

“It’s the quickest weapon. We slash, we don’t poke,” CFA coach Wojtek Radz said. “It’s like the cavalry when people used to ride on horses — they used to slash.”

Radz, who was born in Warsaw, Poland, began training at the age of 7. He attended Wayne State University in the U.S., where he was coached by his father, and also trained at Oregon Fencing Alliance with Zagunis. Radz coaches three times a week in Arvada and also teaches in Evergreen.

While a number of prominent universities, including the Air Force Academy, having fencing programs, Radz believes it’s important for the sport to be offered in


“Without this, there would be no exposure. Nobody would know about fencing,” said Radz, who stressed that fencing is for men and women of all ages. “Especially in Colorado, we still don’t have very well-developed fencing programs, compared to New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, where they have huge programs.”

Colorado Fencing Academy sent a pair of its members, Logan Kanary and Ian Severance, to Summer Nationals in

Anaheim, Calif., last week.

Aaron Severance said CFA works to maintain a presence in the community by revamping its community outreach program. Radz has sponsored programs at local rec centers, and CFA did a demonstration at the Arvada Festival and plans to attend the October Harvest Festival as well.

“I think people think it’s like movies — you come in and swing the sword and it’s fun,” Radz said. “But it’s a sport. You have to practice hard and you have to keep

your head in it.”

For more information, go online to www.cofacademy.org.


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