Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Morris Prokop

EPIC Épée BATTLE – Casey Buchanan, left, battles Ryan McLennan in the épée final of the Yukon Fencing’s tournament at Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse Saturday.

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Photo by Morris Prokop

Épée ATTACK – Isla Poitras, left, meets Kona Turpin’s attack.

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Photo by Morris Prokop

LUNGING LEAP – Wesley Hickey leaps towards Mark Young.

Fencing Yukon holds their first tournament since 2007

Fencing Yukon held their first tournament since the 2007 Canada Winter Games Saturday at Selkirk Elementary School.

By Morris Prokop on February 2, 2024

Fencing Yukon held their first tournament since the 2007 Canada Winter Games Saturday at Selkirk Elementary School.

It was a nationally sanctioned event for points toward Canadian rankings.

It featured a foil session in the morning and an épée session in the afternoon.

In the foil, the fencers have to land a strike on their opponent’s torso.

In the épée, they can land them anywhere, including the head.

Scott Dudiak, a coaching tourney organizer, said the club has been running for about two years now.

Dudiak started the club along with fellow coach James McCullough.

“When I moved here, there was no fencing in the Yukon and I’ve been involved my whole life. I fenced for Team Canada,” recalled Dudiak. “My partner had said, ‘Why don’t you start a little kids’ class?’ So the City of Whitehorse helped us with funding a little bit of equipment to make that happen. James said, ‘we have the club here and we have all the gear and all this experience’ and said ‘I’d love to do this together.’ So we made it a partnership.”

Fourteen fencers took part in the foil session, and 13 in the épée. Their ages ranged from 11 to approximately 55.

“No one in the club is particularly experienced,” related Dudiak. “Some of them have been fencing for almost three years. They’re very strong. They’re starting to go to competitions down south.”

Dudiak said the young fencers may not be as strong as the adults, but they make up for it in skill. Because of that, they decided to put everyone together in the same competition.

“In the current context, it makes for a more exciting event,” said Dudiak.

A good example of that was the foil event in which 13-year-old Carlo Sanchez of Mexico finished second, losing 15-10 to a fencer over twice his age, Casey Buchanan.

“He had been fencing in Mexico for a couple years,” related Dudiak.

The Star spoke with Kona Turpin, one of the talented young fencers, after he defeated Damien Major 5-2 in the round-robin of the épée event.

“I think it went pretty well. I definitely did not think I would win, cause I’ve had three practices so far, so I’m really proud of myself.”

Turpin, 14, explained how he got involved in fencing.

“We had a practice at school that first introduced me to the sport and I really enjoyed it, so that’s when I started.”

Turpin said, “Its been really fun.”

When asked if he thinks he has natural talent for fencing, Turpin replied,”I’ve been told by at least a few people that I’m pretty quick on my feet and I’m a quick learner and I’m pretty good at the sport.”

Heidi Cyr was participating along with her two daughters, Isla Poitras, 14, and Olivia Poitras, 11.

Cyr said she saw an ad for the club on Facebook.

“I’m been wanting to fence since I was a kid when I watched the Princess Bride. And I’m just like, ‘We have to do this.’”

“It’s fun. Maybe there’s a bit of hidden aggression there and this is a safe way to let that out,” she laughed.

Cyr said her girls are “doing great. They’re loving it.”

Isla said it was going “good.”

“Just a little exhausted.

“I’m not here to win. I’m here to fence, and that’s what I’ve been doing all day.”

Isla added, “It’s a small fencing community but it’s getting bigger.

“I hope to get to the nationals, which would be nice.”

Much like her daughter, Cyr said, “It doesn’t matter that I win or not. This is a great experience. I’ve never done this. I’ve never been a competitive person, so it’s a new side of me.”

The épée final featured Casey Buchanan versus the club’s assistant coach, Ryan McLennan.

Buchanan won a hard fought match that went down to the wire, 15-13.

“It feels really great. I haven’t fenced in a really long time and to get back into it was really a blast. I kind of surprised myself that I still have something left.”

Buchanan hadn’t fenced competitively for about 10 years.

“I love fencing with these guys. There’s so many different styles.”

As for the key to his victory, Buchanan said, “Honestly, I was given some good advice by our coach (Dudiak) and it’s just to loosen up and not be too serious and tensed up.”

The Star also spoke with McLennan afterwards.

“It was intense. It was very close. I had to really push because I hurt my leg early into the match.

“It was great. I haven’t been in competition for probably 10, 15 years now.”

McLennan said, “This season, we’ve gotten a lot more kids involved, which is great. It’s a good way to grow the sport. And way more adults that are sticking with it.

“The club has great energy and we have tons of fun.

“When Scott started it up again, I was really excited and really wanted to be involved with it. It’s a great sport.”

Some members of the club will be going to the Alberta Cup 3, which takes place in Calgary Feb. 25-26.

“That will be the first tournament for our club out of the territory as a team,” said Dudiak.

They are also planning on going to the national championships in Saskatoon in May.

The fencers going down south are in the 13-14 year age range. Four will be going to Alberta and six to Saskatoon.

“I’m pretty excited”, said Dudiak. “Because at this stage, it really is about exposure and fun and there really isn’t any reason to have an expectation of how anyone will do. I think that all of the kids are very strong for their age. We’re starting from the bottom up and they’re doing really well.

“There’s no pressure. By just being there, we’re doing something that Yukon Fencing has never done before.”

Dudiak added that they want to support the fencers to take their careers in the sport as far as they can go.

Dudiak said everyone is welcome to join the club, although they are running out of space.

They currently practice at Grey Mountain Elementary in Riverdale.

Practices are held Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

The Yukon Fencing website is https://yukonfencing.com

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