By Steve Petrick
Although the climax of Mark Peros’ varsity fencing career didn’t result in a gold medal, it certainly didn’t lack drama.
The fourth-year fashion student, who entered the OUA fencing championships at Queen’s University on Feb. 18 as the province’s No. 1 seeded sabre competitor, was upset in a semifinal bout and had to settle for the bronze medal.
The defeat, however, might have spurred him for the team sabre competition, in which Peros plotted a stunning comeback to give the Rams a one-point win over Queen’s, leading them to a silver medal.
After Peros and teammates Joey Paget and Adrian Rizzuto beat teams from the University of Ottawa and the University of Western Ontario in two of their first three games, the Rams needed a victory over the host school to stay in the medal hunt.
But things didn’t look good late in the bout. In sabre team competitions, bouts go up to 45 points and the fencers switch each time the leading team hits an interval of five. Peros inherited a 40-31 deficit from his teammates, meaning he’d have to score 14 points before giving up five to clinch the win.
During the final round, a group of Queen’s supporters gathered around the long, narrow mat, expecting to see their fighter, Alex Johnstone, easily finish the win.
But Peros didn’t panic. On most plays he waited for Johnstone to lunge at him before quickly counterpunching for a hit. Ryerson went on to win the match 45-44.
“He’s a really good, clean fencer and he has really long reach,” Johnstone said after the match. “After he got six [points] in a row I knew something bad was happening here.”
After watching the comeback, Paget shook Peros’ hand and said thank you. The win, coupled with the team’s 45-40 victory over McMaster University moments later, allowed Ryerson to finish second out of six teams.
Peros had his own thanking to do after the competition.
“I’d like to thank the school for putting up with me,” he said. “I’m just … intense. That’s the perfect word to describe me.”
Peros usually fences in national and world-cup caliber events for his Toronto-based club team. Earlier this month he placed fifth in a national sabre competition in Vancouver.
This experience makes his a difficult athlete to coach. He’s much more advanced than the average varsity athlete. Fortunately, at Ryerson Peros got paired with Ioseph Mirkin, a world-renowned coach who has worked with Olympic athletes his his native Russia.
“I was very lucky to come here and find Joseph,” Peros said of the coach who knows little English and communicates to his athletes mostly through signals. “He’s my backbone.”