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En Garde: Declan Napier Takes a Stab at International Competition

Edgewood sophomore ends an international competition on the podium

Several months ago, Declan Napier, 10, started fencing and was given the opportunity of a lifetime. Fencing is a staple in sports, being one of the first-ever sports featured in the Olympic games in 1896. It is a very competitive sword fighting sport that involves two people who attempt to outmaneuver each other. The goal is to land hits or points using their epee, saber, or foil. Shortly after beginning to fence, Napier competed in a qualifying tournament for the International School Sport Federation (ISF) Under 15 (U15) Gymnasiade Competition which takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This large international competition features many sports, one of which is fencing. After arriving home from a vacation, Napier received a phone call from her coach informing her that she had been invited to the competition. This was a shock, but left Napier excited to learn more.

Napier registered in Women’s Individual Saber with Qimiao Pan from China, and Stella Santos from Brazil. Even though Napier had started fencing with Epee, which is usually an introductory sword, she decided to compete in Saber because there were fewer people competing in this category at this competition. Fencing with a saber brought in new, unique challenges. Although it shares many similarities to the epee, there are many differences in rules and technique. For instance, one major change between the two is that while using epee, anywhere you hit your opponent’s body counts as a point, as long as you hit them with the tip of the blade. Whereas with a saber, you can only hit above the waist with either the tip or the side of the blade. Although the invitation was on short notice, Napier quickly began to train for the competition and made alterations to their schedule. This schedule included fencing club three times a week rather than just once, as well as adding in gym sessions two times per week.

After some time, Napier flew to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to take part in the competition. The tournament began with gear checks. All of the equipment of each of the competitors had to be checked, and each competitor also had to have doubles of each piece. Right before the gear check, one of the cables needed to compete in the competition had broken during training. Luckily though, Napier’s fencing instructor had brought an extra one. Next, they had tournament seeding which determines what opponent the fencers will face based upon previous international tournaments. This is followed by pool rounds which are quick rounds that show the fencers’ true skill at the time of the competition. After another round of seeding and a pool round, it leads to the direct elimination rounds which are longer rounds where one person moves on to the finals while the other is eliminated.

Following the competition’s conclusion, the results were released: Qimao Pan from China in first, Stella Santos from Brazil in second, and Declan Napier in third. Even though Napier did not end up winning the competition, placing third in an international competition is a very big deal, and it’s an even bigger deal for someone who only recently began fencing.

“I was pretty happy because placing third in an international is quite an accomplishment, especially since I did it pretty early on,” said Napier, 10.

Although Napier does not have Olympic ambitions due to other passions, there is expressed interest in competing in future international competitions and the experience gained from this competition will serve them well in those.


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