by André Voshart
A gym full of sword fighters and no one lost an arm.
About 100 fencers fought their way through the Ontario Challenge Circuit this Sunday at Ryerson with players from Ryerson, the University of Toronto, McMaster University, Brock University and several fencing clubs from across the province taking part.
Men’s foil was dominated by Ryerson’s fencing club with five of six players ranking in the top 15 after the initial round robin play. They continued to perform well in the direct elimination round and both varsity athletes placed in the top 10.
Fourth-year film student Andrew Cividino, the men’s foil captain, tore through his pool defeating five of six opponents despite his small frame, a quaint 5-foot-7.
“I’m always fencing people taller than myself,” he said. “To break the distance there is a lot of fast footwork.”
Cividino said it is impossible to avoid a pain-free match given the inescapable fact that players are being stabbed.
“The pain, you really get used to it,” Cividino said halfway through the round robin. “I’ll have a bunch of marks already.”
Following the graduation of last year’s captain, Amy Blackburn, only two women remain in Ryerson’s club for 2005-2006.
Foil captain Sonia Hipp, fourth-year information and technology management, wasn’t discouraged by her poor showing, placing 14th.
“You have good days and bad days,” she said. “A lot I find is the mental thing. It’s not letting it get to me when someone’s murdering you.”
Players match on gym-width four-foot wide wooden platforms. Their vests are tethered by wire to electronic boxes that register a player’s hit. Judges, however, have the final say if a hit is good or not.
The swords used in this competition are either the foil or the épée. The foil has a smaller hand guard and the player can score a point only when he hits his opponent’s upper torso. With the épée, any body part is fair game. The third sword in fencing, the sabre, wasn’t an event Sunday.
Keith Bridger, co-president of the Fencing Club of Ryerson, said fencing is based on mind games as much as strength.
“You have to make quick analysis and be able to make quick decisions,” he said. “The main thing is the strategies and psychology. Anyone’s strengths can be turned into a weakness by someone who knows how to do it.”
This lesson was proven in the semi-finals when Cividino was up against fellow Ryerson club members Matt Davies, who isn’t a Ryerson student. In the beginning of their first-to-15-points match they were tied 5-5. Davies recognized Cividino’s style and quickly adapted to it, beating Cividino 15-5.
“That’s how it goes,” Cividino said after the match. “He adjusted to me. I got frustrated and beat myself in the homestretch. I was kind of on auto-pilot.”
He did walk away with 6th place in men’s foil, ahead of Ryerson’s David Buksa’s 9th place finish.
Like many members of Ryerson’s fencing club, Cividino and Buksa took up the sport in their first year.
Earlier, in what proved to be a long day for the men and women in white, Ryerson’s John Liu finished 16th of 44 in the men’s épée. It was his second week of using épée after having switched from foil in the fall.
Jorge Williams, second-year mechanical engineering, placed 20th in épée. However, unlike Cividino, the Cuban-born Williams had more height to work with and didn’t always use it to his advantage.
“I need to be more agressive,” he said on a break. “I’ve got to keep tall. Use my height.”
Meanwhile, the small-framed Joe Lin, whose long hair could be seen poking out from behind his large mask as he fought, bemoaned balancing fencing and his second-year architecture program’s workload.
“I’m going to be up all night,” he said laughing nervously at the thought. After a day like Sunday, he should be happy to even have his limbs to work with.
Ryerson Club Results:
– Men’s Foil (31 Fencers)
Andrew Cividino, 6th
David Buksa, 9th
– Women’s Foil (21 Fencers)
Sonia Hipp, 14th
– Men’s Épée (44 Fencers)
John Lui, 16th
Jorge Williams, 20th
Joe Lin, 21st
Liang Liau, 39th
Brendan Coles, 42nd