Fencing is one of the oldest and most traditional sports played at Brock, and every year, the university hosts the Brock Open.
The Open provides an opportunity for fencers from all over the world to compete against one another. Brock boasts a squad of 48 fencers, 24 men and 24 women, a team much larger than most universities sustain.
Tim Stang has been coaching the team for nearly 20 years. Talking to Stang, his passion for fencing is evident. He took the time to explain the structure of the sport.
“Fencing has three disciplines, foil, epee and sabre. Epée being the closest to classical dueling, where the target is from head to toe, it’s a thrusting weapon so you can hit anywhere. Foil is very similar to epée but target is restricted to the torso. And sabre is descended from a cavalry sabre so it’s an extremely fast weapon in which you hit with a slashing motion as opposed to thrusting,” said Stang.
Aaron Olmstead took gold in sabre, beating out experienced competition from other universities. Stang called sabre “one of the hardest disciplines to medal in”. Olmstead made taking gold look easy.
The team works incredibly hard. They practice three to four days a week for several hours at a time, the students compete “every second or third weekend” preparing for the Brock open and the National championships.
In contrast to some of the more mainstream sports at the university, where athletes will have been participating since childhood, fencing is something that can be taught effectively at any age.
“A good number of our athletes learn to fence here at the university, and then join the team through tryouts,” said Stang.
“I steal athletes from other teams,” Stang said with a smile, half joking. “You name it, if they’re from a sport and have sport experience, I’ll put them into fencing and let them give it a try. The other half of my team are all nationally ranked, highly competitive athletes that we’ve recruited.”
The fencing open is not only open to university students, but fencers from anywhere in the world. There were many fencers from Brock, but looking around there were also fencers from Europe and China taking part in the event.
“I mean this is our host event so we tend to rock it at this one.”
Logan Wilford, a fourth year student, failed to medal at the event but he managed to defeat all of the university competitors in his discipline.
The team competes at the Canadian fencing championships in the spring and according to Stang, the Brock Open can be a great time for fencers to test the waters and see where they stand amongst their competition
“It’s kind of a testing ground for when we get to the championships, we have a mixture of University athletes and provincial and national team athletes, so you get a good sense of where your athletes will stand come nationals.”
Brock is in a good position moving forward. The program is strong, many athletes medaled this past weekend, and are hoping to replicate these results at the national level.