A final thrust into Ryerson sports

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By Anthony Lopopolo

I felt like a prancing leprechaun.

Swivelling back and forth, jutting up and about, I moved with the clumsiness of a toddler learning to walk, nevermind someone trying out for Ryerson’s fencing team.

Luckily, our very own features editor, Rodney Barnes, happened to be the captain of the team.

I admit, I tagged along with him for reassurance. Did I want to look like a drunk walking the line?

Did I want to haphazardly engage in a sport I had only a vague concept of?

As I soon realized, no one could help my case.

Stab. Slide.

I could have blamed my imminent misadventure on my jeans and shoes. Wearing casual clothing is a big no-no in fencing, and I got bad looks to prove it.

In a sport defined by grace as much as technique, wearing Diesel doesn’t score you points. Neither does Puma, apparently.

Halt. Lunge.

Trying to pin down exactly what this rhythmic motion included – and how my feet could keep up – I managed to trip over my feet and stutter out of sync.

I heard Barnes chuckle behind me.

Here comes the leprechaun.

Alice Lu, the coach of Ryerson’s team, hovered in front of us with a horizontal beam, which was used for dictating the flow of our movement. As she backpedaled, we shifted forward; as she accelerated, we receded.

Well, that’s what the rest did. I struggled to remain whole.

Charge. Glide.

And we were only practising our footwork.

I wouldn’t be so rash to liken the sport to dancing, but whenever I was off cue – which was most of the time, by my watch – I lost harmony with the group. The misfit.

I clearly wasn’t qualified to wield a sword, but to my delight I was handed one.

What would happen if a child was behind the wheel of a car? Well, I found out.

Clash. Clang.

All of a sudden, I found myself pitted against Barnes in the middle of the gym, spotlight on – in my mind, anyway.

I elected to play it conservative, to wait for him to initiate contact. No harm, no foul, right? I couldn’t be more wrong.

Stab. Ouch.

“Don’t worry Anthony, you can lunge forward at me. Don’t be scared, I won’t get hurt,” said a sympathetic Barnes.

That wasn’t my concern, though.

Whether I’d be the one scathed was what had me unnerved. Still, I heaved myself toward him, trying to strike his chest.

Once, twice, three times: all to no avail. Nine or 10 blows later – all against me, of course – I knew I wasn’t cut for fencing.

Even Lu, as I later discovered, dispelled my legitimacy upon my entrance. I came in without a chance in hell.

“You couldn’t make it with those clothes on,” she said.

Swing. Miss.

So diving at balls asked me to be acrobatic, skating on ice demanded undivided balance.

But who would have thought that swinging a sword at someone would be the most difficult?

I certainly didn’t.

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