Fencers ready to try their hand at na­tion­als

The Southwest Booster - - SPORTS - > Steven Mah

The

Swift

Cur­rent Fenc­ing Club, now in its fourth sea­son, has taken a gi­ant leap for­ward re­cently as two lo­cal com­peti­tors have earned the right to rep­re­sent Saskatchew­an at the Cana­dian Fenc­ing Fed­er­a­tion’s Na­tional Cham­pi­onship in Saskatoon on June 25-28.

Sarah Houghtalin­g and Bri­anna Jen­son, both 14 years of age, will rep­re­sent Swift Cur­rent and Saskatchew­an on the na­tional stage.

Houghtalin­g has been fenc­ing for two years and will com­pete in the cadet girls and un­der-15 sabre events.

“Sarah started out two years ago in foil and in Oc­to­ber we had done a bit of a demon­stra­tion and she found that she quite en­joyed do­ing sabre. So she moved into do­ing sabre pretty much full time ex­cept in our club be­cause we have mainly foil­ers so she was still do­ing some foil,” said coach Lisa Ha­gen. “She qual­i­fied by rank­ings be­cause of where she placed in provin­cials tour­na­ments that al­lowed her to qual­ify for na­tion­als.”

“I am against the best of the best in Canada so re­ally it is just to score one point,” said Houghtalin­g of her goals at na­tion­als.

“I joined fenc­ing be­cause a lot of my friends were in it and they said that it was just a blast. I got there and it was. My coach said that I wasn’t re­ally suited to foil and she hooked me up with a Saskatoon coach, John, and I started with some sabre lessons and that was even bet­ter.”

Bri­anna Jen­son, in her first year of fenc­ing, will join Houghtalin­g in Saskatoon at na­tion­als and will com­pete in the cadet and un­der 15 epee.

“She picked up epee half­way through the sea­son and seems to have found a tal­ent for it. She seemed to pick up a lot of it quite eas­ily and so when she fenced at provin­cials she ac­tu­ally placed first out of the cadet women and had done fairly well at an­other tour­na­ment,” said Ha­gen of Jen­son who re­ceived a wild­card berth from the Saskatchew­an Fenc­ing As­so­ci­a­tion due to her strong late sea­son re­sults.

Jen­son ex­plained why she joined fenc­ing this past sea­son say­ing, “A lot of peo­ple I knew were in it and a few peo­ple dropped out but they still talked about how much fun it was and I fig­ured that sword fight­ing would prob­a­bly be an in­ter­est­ing sport to join.”

“It is a re­ally great club,” said Jen­son. “It is still pretty small but it is re­ally, re­ally fun be­cause every­one knows every­one and we all help each other out with fenc­ing. Af­ter you go to a cou­ple of tour­na­ments peo­ple start to rec­og­nize you and it is not as scary go­ing up against a whole bunch of peo­ple you don’t know be­cause you do know them.”

As for her goals at na­tion­als? “Um, to sur­vive,” she said with a laugh.

Ha­gen has just com­pleted her fourth sea­son as the coach of the SCFC, which has ap­prox­i­mately 20 fencers and she is ex­cited to send the first two fencers from the club to na­tion­als.

“It is some­thing that we can pro­mote say­ing that it is not just some lit­tle tiny club any­more. In fact the pro­vin­cial as­so­ci­a­tion is quite happy with how the Swift Cur­rent club is go­ing. They are very ex­cited with what is go­ing on down here and it can only do won­der­ful things for our club.”

As for her ex­pec­ta­tions of her two young com­peti­tors, Ha­gen is hop­ing for the best.

“Ba­si­cally just to en­joy them­selves. This is the first time that any of our fencers from Swift Cur­rent will be at a fenc­ing tour­na­ment that is tech­ni­cally out­side of Saskatchew­an… This is the high­est that they have ever fenced. I just want them to get used to the crowd be­cause it is go­ing to be big­ger than we are used to. There are go­ing to be other coaches yelling and giv­ing in­struc­tions to their fencers well they are on the piste. I just want them to ab­sorb ev­ery­thing that is go­ing on so that if they qual­ify again next year then they are not go­ing to be ner­vous. I just want them to learn and try their best. If they win a bout that is great, if they don’t that is great too. At least the stood up and stood their ground.”

While in some sports Saskatchew­an may be an also-ran at the na­tional level, Ha­gen ex­plained that is not the case in fenc­ing.

“Oh yeah, in fact last year the ju­nior se­nior women’s foil Cana­dian cham­pion was from Saskatchew­an…We stack up quite high in fact Saskatoon had the for­mer ju­nior world cham­pion in their club. We hold our own when it comes to fenc­ing and most peo­ple in the coun­try know who our fencers are.”

At na­tion­als com­pe­ti­tions will be held in the Un­der-15, Cadet, Ju­nior, and Vet­eran cat­e­gories as well as the Se­nior com­pe­ti­tion for the Cana­dian Se­lec­tion Cir­cuit (CSC) #1, the or­ga­ni­za­tion re­spon­si­ble for de­ter­min­ing the Na­tional team mem­bers who will rep­re­sent Canada at in­ter­na­tional events.

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