En garde: Classic sport new to Ridge

The Meadowridge school fencing club, just five years old, now hosts the largest youth fencing event in the province outside of ...

(Above) Emily Mason competes in the Y-14 epee division at the 2014 Meadowridge Youth Fencing Tournament at Meadowridge School on Sunday.

Maple Ridge is on the map in the venerable sport of fencing.

The Meadowridge school fencing club, just five years old, now hosts the largest youth fencing event in the province outside of the annual provincial championships.

On Sunday, the school gymnasium was ringing with the sounds of swordplay, as 145 athletes from 11 different fencing clubs from across the Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast, Vernon, Nanaimo and Bellingham took part.

Kids faced each other on the long, narrow strip known as the piste, parrying and riposting, advancing and retreating.

“This is a good gathering, we’re really pleased to bring the youth fencing community together,” said one of the organizers, Connie Chow.

“You’re seeing some potential – some of these kids are vying for Team B.C. or the national team.”

Gareth Mason, who was a competitive fencer in England, is the founder and coach of the club, which has grown to include about 50 athletes in Grades 4-12.

He was once top 30 in the U.K., and after a long absence from the sport, he is backing competing as a veteran, dusting off his epee and some long-dormant skills. He works for software companies, and his daughter attends Meadowridge.

“You’re rusty, but it’s like riding a bike – you never forget it.”

Fencing is done with knees bent, legs coiled for sudden strikes. It’s a great workout.

“It’s like playing squash with armour on.”

Physically, the sport favours those with excellent hand-eye coordination, quick reflexes, good balance, and ultimately physical strength.

And there’s a rigorous mental contest underway once swords are crossed. Mason said people who do well in mental challenges like chess, mathematics or music might also appreciate fencing.

“You’re trying to unlock your opponent’s defensive strategies,” he said. “It’s a tactical sport.”

A match is fought to a score of five, and the scoring is done electronically. When your epee touches your opponent, an electrical impulse is automatically sent to the score clock, and you get your point.

The tournament offered competition in all three weapons popular in the sport – the epee, a stabbing weapon; the smaller foil; and the sabre, with which points can be scored using the edge.

The appeal is broad based, said Mason, from “youngsters looking to be pirates, to the truly athletic.”

There were eight Meadowridge fencing team members who won medals at their host tournament.

Gold:

• Y10 Foil – Sunny Yuan;

• Y10 Sabre – Brandon Quon;

• Y12 Sabre – Nathan Go;

• Y14 Sabre – Timothy Lampen.

Silver:

• Y10 Epee – Pawel Pater;

• Y10 Foil – Joe Guo;

• Y10 Sabre – Kevin Lee;

• Cadet Sabre – Matheson Go.

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