It’s not every day the USA Fencing Junior Olympics National Championship is in Kansas City so KCTV5 Sports found out more about the sport and learned a few things from those competing.
“It’s such an unusual sport … when you go up to somebody and they ask you know what sport do you do, somebody will be like oh I play basketball you know I play soccer, football, I’ll be like oh, I’m a fencer,” Ian Quin, a fencer from New Jersey, said.
The USA Fencing historian says the sport became popular in the United States after European immigrants introduced the game at local gyms nationwide.
“The idea was fencing was offense and defense,” USA Fencing historian Andy Shaw said.
The name of the game comes from just that. Fencing is short for offense and defense according to Shaw. It’s an individual sport that has three different categories of swords and competition. The competitors in Kansas City say the game is half physical, half mental.
“A lot of what people say, especially my coach, is that fencing is a form of physical chess,” Leon Rotenstein, a fencer from Boston said.
“They call fencing physical chess. You have to anticipate, watch your opponent, anticipate some of the moves make over and over and that’s how you win the game,” according to Christine Strong Simmons the USA Fencing Director of Operations.
It also requires the athletes to remain in physical shape and maintain a high level of conditioning.
“Nine minutes of fencing is the equivalent of running a mile essentially,” said Rotenstein.
Some fans didn’t have to travel far to witness the action in person. Brendan Wheatley, 11, of Olathe has been fencing for two years now and enjoyed the championships taking place in Kansas City.
“It’s awesome to see all these people fencing, cause someday I might be here fencing, so it’s really cool,” Wheatley said.
Wheatley had a few local athletes to look up to at the tournament competing, like James Whitehill of downtown Kansas City.
“When I was little, sword fighting sounded awesome," Wheatley said.
Whitehill used that desire and turned into an accomplished fencer living in Missouri and training in Overland Park. Whitehill said competing in the USA Fencing Championships was one of his goals growing up and it makes it sweeter having the tournament right in his backyard.
“Now it’s just sort of here and I can take the streetcar if I want too, yeah it’s a lot easier," Whitehill said.
This weekend’s event isn’t your only chance to catch fencing live in action. Kansas City will host the North American Cup tournament in November.
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