During week one of the Canada Winter Games in Corner Brook,
we spent most of our time running from venue to venue watching
sports which were foreign to us. One day, we decided that we
really wanted to watch fencing. Though the sport has been around
for many centuries, it was quite new to the two of us.
As we walked into the gym of Memorial University, it quickly
dawned on us that we had no clue about the sport. Luckily, we
met Brian McCormack, who coordinated the sports information offices
at the Games. He told us that anyone that we asked would be willing
to help us understand. That was, of course, if they knew themselves.
Behind us we heard many other people trying to figure out what
was going on. Obviously, they were in the same boat as us.
We turned around and asked the first person we saw, who just
happened to be Jordan Smith, a fencer from Saskatchewan. Considering
we were two really confused girls, he sat patiently with us that
afternoon and explained the many rules and objectives of the
He started by telling us that there were three different kinds
of fencing which are practiced today, each of which is named
for the type of sword that is used: épée, foil
and saber. The objective of fencing is to touch the specific
target with the point of the foil or épée or with
the edge and the point of the saber.
The teams brought 15 fencers which included three girls for
both of the épée and foil and three guys for each
of the épée, foil, saber. At this level of competition,
girls do not usually fence in saber.
Épée, foil and saber each have different scoring
targets. The épée can touch any part of the body,
while foil only touches the torso and saber touches from the
hips up, including the arms and the mask.
Most of the fencing that we saw was épée. It
is generally very slow because the competitors concentrate primarily
on jabbing the épée. Saber was extremely fast because
both of the fencers would constantly be running from each other
because they could get hit by any part of the saber. Nevertheless,
both were extremely exciting to watch.
The épée sword's point is pressed down when
a certain amount of pressure is applied to it. This gives the
competitor a point because the sword is attached to an electrical
body cord which makes the scoring apparatus buzz. This tells
the fencer -- and the audience -- that the fencer has gotten
a point. This goes on until one of the fencers reaches five points.
Then the bout, or match, is over. This is the same for foil but
the edge of the saber can touch the opponent.
Another interesting thing that we learned from Jordan is that
the presidents or referees talk only in French. This was kind
of different for us because we could not always understand what
they were saying and what was going on. The president would yell
"en guard", which means to stand your guard, and then
"aller" which means go, but that was about all that
we could understand. Fencing originated in France and that might
be why the presidents speak primarily in french. This could also
be another reason why the Québec team dominated in most
of the fencing that went on during the Canada Winter Games.
The Games taught us many new things that we never knew before
and fencing was definitely one of these. It was probably the
biggest highlight of our two weeks as reporters. Because of Jordan,
we realized how great a sport fencing really is despite the fact
that it is not well-known.
We also realized how proud all of the athletes are of their
particular sports and how eager they are to get people to understand
and enjoy their sport. If you ever get a chance to watch fencing,
we both recommend that you do. It is really, really exciting!
We liked watching it so much, that we went back to watch a second
day of competition!