THE Xavier School fencing team is not your usual varsity squad.
These aren’t your usual high school jocks. Some are former varsity football players, others used to be part of the chess team while others are computer gamers out to try something different. Collectively, the team members were some of the most level-headed teenagers. As one, the student-athletes describe fencing as “a mind game,” albeit played at a much faster pace with developed strategies to go along with their tactics.
SPIN.ph caught up with the XS fencers during their pictorial at the Valle Verde Country Club and was able to interview some of their members.
With the XS Fencing Cup 2015 scheduled this Sunday (October 11), the team is hoping to improve on its 14-medal haul in last year’s tourney which the University of the East team topped by going one medal better than the Xavier team.
Dinah Remolacio, XS Fencing program head, said the tournament is a way to raise funds for the team that would help cover the training, competition-related expenses, equipment, training camp and additional coaching staff.
The one-day event is also aimed at promoting the sport.
The former national athlete said the Cup drew 100 fencers in 2014, a number they hope to double this year with entries from an expected 30 teams/clubs, some of whom will be coming from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.
The 18 and under tourney will have 20 categories in team and individual competitions.
Remolacio said fencing started in the Greenhills-based school as an elective in physical education in the late 1990s. When she became part the program in the early 2000s, she extended and developed the existing club into a varsity team.
As part of the team’s preparation they are training with the national team at the fencing hall at the PhilSports arena where they are honing their attacks, parries and ripostes (counterattacks).
From their own words, let’s get to know some of the fencing team’s members:
Sandro Sia, 13, sabre, 4th year fencer
"Sabre is more on speed. I joined fencing because it sounded interesting. I consider the University of the East team as challenging opponents."
Senna Bustamante, 16, 5th year fencer, epee
"(I believe a good epee fencer) should be in control and a good strategist and have patience. Fencing is a mind game. You test your opponent and see what they’re going to do to you and you react accordingly. There is more strategy than in most other sports."
Anton Alianan, 14, 5th year fencer, foil
"I started when I was nine and being that age I was naturally interested in swords. We were given a circular every half semester of the sports we could join and when my brothers saw fencing they were like, “O pag sumali ka dyan puwede mong hampasin kalaban mo gamit ng espada!” and being a kid who liked to watch movies and seeing people with swords I was like, 'That sounds cool I wanna join that!'
"(At first) I was surprised because the foil isn’t your regular, stereotypical sword. It doesn’t have a grip that’s straight - it has a pistol grip. It’s not a blade that points up, it points straight. I was surprised, what is this? I was told I would be slashing at people, but I had already started and might as well go ahead with it and eventually I learned to love it. The best thing about fencing is the feel of holding a blade in your hand and knowing that you can make plans and strike your opponent well. And for me the best feeling in fencing is when you actually make a good plan in your mind to fool your opponent in thinking that you’re going do to this but you’re going to do this and you make a really good point. I sometimes watch videos on YouTube of Olympic bouts and I try to analyze higher level fencers and see how they play. And sometimes I try to implement that in my own game."
Kyle Patrick Go, 14, 5th year fencer, epee
"I first tried fencing when I was in Grade 3. (The difference with other sports) is my relationship with my teammates. In the other sports I’ve tried, I liked the sport but it was my teammates that made me quit. Here, I like this crowd, (they’re) much friendlier.
"Last year’s Xavier Cup was really good. I got a silver medal. But not good enough — it was home court and I lost. The most important interval between (the 2014 and 2015 Xavier Cups) was the training I had from another tournament in between, the SEA Federation. It was a tournament where the coaches decided to put all the fencers together, instead of (different) schools we played as one team, the Philippine team. Those everyday training sessions were my best yet. I think it helped me a lot. I got a silver medal there, too.
"(Forecast) I think even if we may not win, I think all of us will play aggressively and ferociously - more serious than usual because of all the competitions we feel that this competition is the one we must excel in."
Psalm Co, 15, 5th year, foil
"I started and stayed in foil, it was a fit for me. You get really big guys for epee and fast guys for sabre. I got four medals (three silver and one bronze) in the last XS Cup, I was not on full throttle since he joined too many categories. I plan to join two this year. It opened my view a lot more and a whole different world of a sport. I got bored because we were always winning. (Biggest difference from team sports) If I lose it’s my fault, if I win I get all the glory!"
Diego Achacoso, 16, 3rd year, epee
"To be honest, before this I wasn’t really playing any sport. How I joined is pretty funny. My friends just went up to me one day and said, ‘Hey why don’t you try to join fencing?’ It’s because I didn’t have anything to do and I was like, ‘Sure why not?’ When you join you have to choose a sword. It’s like the most important decision of the game like the start, like Pokemon where you choose your first three starters. You work with that sword until you grow up, you gain experience from it. You find it pretty fun actually.
"(What’s the first thing in your head when you face an opponent?) It depends on the opponent. I would check for mistakes in what they do and I’ll just take advantage of it and score the point. The difference between an experienced and a not so experienced fencer is that an experienced fencer knows how to bait you so even if it looks like a mistake it’s probably not a mistake."