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By Seema Persaud

Ryerson fashion grad Mark Peros is poised to go the 2008 Olympics, but he nearly didn’t make it out of Ryerson.

Lorna Lewis, a Ryerson fashion program assistant, remembered an incident when Peros cut his throat during fencing practice.

“But he was fine, it didn’t seem to overthrow him … he never even stayed away from school,” she said. After he finished university, Peros, who is three fencing competitions away from the Olympics, decided to take his sport more seriously.

“About three years ago I said, ‘You know what? I’ll probably only have one chance at trying to go to any kind of Olympic game.’ So I said, ‘OK, for the next three years I’m going to really put a big push on it.’”

Peros spends two to four hours, five days a week practicing fencing.

Once a month he goes to Montreal to practice with his canadian fencing teammates.

When he isn’t practising, he’s competing in seven tournaments each year around the world.

One of his most memorable matches was at the 2007 World Fencing Championships in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Nearly 3,000 people watched Peros and five-time Olympic medal winner Stanislav Pozdniakov face each other.

“[It was] pretty intimidating being in front of him … just ‘cause of [his] reputation,” Peros said. Peros lost the match and Pozdniakov ended up winning the gold medal, but that didn’t prevent Peros from enjoying the competition.

“[Pozdniakov’s] probably one of the best fencers the sport has ever known. He’s like a hero in Russia,” he said.

“He’s on credit cards there, and everyone knows who this guy is. It just felt great, because he’s on a level of being so perfect in the sport.”

Peros is quick to point out how physically and mentally draining fencing can be. “It’s known as a physical chess match because you’re always trying to think three, four, five moves ahead of where you are now,” he said.

“There are times when it gets frustrating where you can’t figure it out or you have a bad day … and it’s really tough to concentrate.”

Peros wasn’t always as committed to fencing. His father Martin, a former member of the Canadian fencing team in the 1970s, taught him fencing when he was 12.

However, in high school, Peros got caught up in other sports and stopped fencing altogether. It wasn’t until he was a fine arts student at Queen’s University that Peros decided to fence again.

He spent one year on the Queen’s team and the next four years at Ryerson. Now 31, Peros not only continues to fence but also maintains his own clothing manufacturing business, Peros Inc.

At one point, he was focused on fashion design but changed to manufacturing because of how difficult it is to find a job in design.

“Design is nearly impossible to make a career out of,” he said. “I didn’t want to be in limbo basing my entire life on it so I transitioned to a more stable career. If you want a big family, want a big house … you can’t really do that if you’re a designer.”

Last August in the Pan-American games, the Canadian team won the silver medal. Today, they are still behind the American team by 25 points.

Before the March 31 announcement of who gets to go to the Olympics there are three competitions that need to happen, one of which takes place this weekend in Greece.

Unlike other sports, only one fencing team is allowed to go to the Olympics from North and South America. “People need to understand that it’s really tough to qualify for the Olympics. It’s not an easy thing. You’ve got to go as a team, not an individual … there’s so much competition.” Peros said.

Whether or not they make it to the Olympics, Peros wants to spread his love for fencing by starting up his own club or classes that he would teach himself.

“I think people don’t see it as being a sport sometimes. They sort of see it in movies and in TV and it’s not what it seems to be,” he said.

“When seeing a high-level fencing match, it’s … unbelievably interesting. And super fast — you blink and it’s over.”

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