UVic wins gold and silver in mixed foil fencing tournament
With 30 different sports clubs at UVic, countless tournaments happen every year, but the UVic Fencing Club recently held an event like no other.
On Nov. 25, the UVic Fencing Club hosted its annual Nan-Sang Ho Tournament. Open to all clubs and fencers, the tournament drew in participants from across the province for a Saturday of recreational fencing.
Ellis Martiskainen, a third-year anthropology student, has been fencing at UVic for the last two years. As the club’s social media and communications executive, Martiskainen said it was exciting to hold the tournament after the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the club from hosting in the last few years.
This year, the tournament was divided into two events: mixed epee and mixed foil.
Epee and foil refer to the different fencing swords used and for each of them, different rules apply. For example, in epee, points are awarded solely based on which fencer touches their opponent first, whereas in foil, points are awarded with consideration of who had the right of way. The target area of a fencer also differs between the two, where the entire body is considered the target in epee, but only the torso, groin, and lower neck are target areas in foil.
Both events began with a pooled round where fencers were randomly divided into groups and fenced each person within their group. No elimination happens at this stage, however. Scores from the pools determine who fences who in the next round: the direct elimination round.
By early afternoon, the fierce echoes of metal blades rang through the CARSA performance gym, radiating the energy of more than 36 fencers. Simultaneous fencing matches happened across the gym as participants were eliminated one by one.
Competing in mixed epee was UVic’s very own head coach, Ali Ulker. Ulker fought hard all the way to the quarter-finals, losing against Markus Rissiek from Dynamo Fencing.
Rissiek went on to win silver in mixed epee, with Fred Frank from the Northwest Fencing Center winning gold.
The mixed foil semi-finals had Sterling Beeston from UVic competing against Carol Tse from the University of British Columbia, and Harry McCollough from UVic against Manual Arce from the OSM Fencing Club.
Beeston defeated Tse, scoring 15–9 and, bringing a second UVic name to the finals, McCollough defeated Arce 15–6.
As Beeston and McCollough began their final match for gold and silver, anticipation heightened across the gym. With every score Beeston or McCollough made, the other person caught up swiftly, making the match a gripping neck-and-neck experience.
Finally, the intensity of the match peaked as Beeston beat McCollough 15–14, coupled with an uproar of cheers from their clubmates in the audience.
“It [was] very exciting …They were one or two points off from each other the whole time, and it was 14–15 at the end, which is as close as they can ever get,” said Martiskainen. “I think they both did really well.”
The day was celebrated with prizes and medals for the finalists, presented by Nan-Sang Ho’s son, Chris.
Reflecting on the tournament’s success, Martiskainen emphasized the club’s wish to honour Ho’s contributions to fencing.
In 1980, Ho founded the UVic Fencing Club. With great devotion to the sport of fencing for most of his life, Ho trained 2012 Olympic fencer Monica Peterson and hundreds of other fencers in Victoria.
Ho passed away in 2015 and his legacy is carried on today by his wife, Veronika Ho, and many of his students who are now coaches themselves.
The Nan-Sang Ho Tournament was created in 2017 to remember Ho’s love for the sport and mission to foster a passion for fencing in students.
“We’re glad we were able to host this with [Ho’s] family running the administration — his wife and his son Chris,” said Martiskainen. “We also wanted to say thanks for everyone who showed up and we’re proud that our own club fencers got first and second in foil.”
Martiskainen looks forward to the club growing, as he’s seen more students get involved in fencing this year. As someone who only started learning to fence at UVic, he attributes the passion he’s developed for the sport to the community of fencers.
“On the one hand, I just find it a really fun sport. It’s really exciting,” said Martiskainen. “Additionally, the coaches are super nice, and the fencing community [has been] super friendly and just really accepting of beginners.”
The UVic Fencing Club meets in the CARSA gym every Wednesday and Saturday evening for intermediate and advanced fencers and every Saturday evening for beginners. Students interested in joining the club in the upcoming semester can find more details about the club at https://vikesrec.ca/clubs/fencing.