The newest sport in Cayman is taking off at the point of a sword.
The Cayman Islands Fencing Federation was recently recognised by the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee as the official governing body for the sport locally, and it’s undertaking a grass roots instructional campaign in the hope of sending a competitor to the Summer Olympics in 2024.
Logan Ryan Golema, the chairman of the Cayman Islands Fencing Federation, has spent half his life in the sport and believes it’s a great path to instilling honour, integrity and solidarity. Golema fenced at the college level, and he loves the idea of introducing the sport he loves to his new home.
“I saw the opportunity to bring a new sport to the island because fencing hasn’t been here as an Olympic sport before,” he said. “It’s something new to do. Something exciting. When I tell people we’re fencing in the Cayman Islands, they’re like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that was happening here.’”
The federation is still in its first month as a full-time pursuit, and it has begun reaching out to many of the local schools in the hope of finding students looking for a brand new activity. Golema said he has held free demonstrations and trial lessons, and he hopes to visit Cayman Prep in October.
Practices are held at the Arts & Recreation Centre in Camana Bay and at the Performance Lab on Mary Street. The classes are small to start with, allowing individual instruction, and Golema said that initial excitement can go a long way toward matching potential fencers with a long-time pursuit of excellence.
“They love it. They might be swinging it around and we stop that,” he said of students who are first introduced to the sport and the equipment. “But it’s discipline, honour and integrity. Just like any martial art, it’s all about honing your own practice. Fencing is an individual sport. You’re not relying on a team member to pass you the ball or tackle your opponent. It’s all you and your opponent on the piste, and it’s a chance for you to find your inner fencer. Defend yourself and prepare yourself to attack.”
The piste is the word for the narrow strip of territory fencers navigate during competition, and points are scored through making contact with the sword and your opponent’s body. First-time watchers may be struck by the similarities in the sport with the swashbuckling swordfights they’ve seen on film.
“It should be popular. It’s a very exciting spectator sport,” said Golema. “You get to see people really duelling for their lives; not literally, but it seems like that. Hopefully we can get it to the point where it’s a spectator sport here on island and we’re encouraging international tourism here. We’re going to be hosting tournaments. We’re going to have the first annual Cayman Open in January.”
Cayman already has an accomplished fencer in Ariana Rondon, and the hope is that a whole generation of budding fencers will crop up over time. Golema said that anticipation, reflexes and determination to overcome your opponent and your prior performances are the key aspects in making a good fencer.
Ian Lenthart, the federation’s head coach, recently took a second place at the Pirate Day Open in Kentucky, and he’s moved down to Cayman to be a full-time instructor.
So far, the federation has a star pupil in Sofia Gustafsson. Golema said she’s been to every class since instruction started, and she’s rapidly improved from a beginner’s level in a short time. Golema is proud of her rapid trajectory, but he’s also quick to say that fencing is a sport for all ages.
“We like to say, ‘From 8 to 85,’” he said of the diverse age groups that can excel in fencing.
“We will take younger kids, and we will take you if you’re older. There’s also wheelchair fencing. There’s an availability for really anybody to come in and see what it’s like to fence.”
Gustafsson, who previously boxed a little at the performance centre before taking on fencing, said that she’s enjoying the sport and that the Olympics are a fun thing to dream about in the future.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” she said. “I always thought it was a really cool sport, but I never saw myself actually doing it. Two of my friends say they really want to do it now. A lot of them say it’s really cool.”
Taiba Khan, co-founder and director of finance for the Cayman Islands Fencing Federation, said there are still lots of administrative tasks and groundwork to be laid. The federation is seeking sponsors, fundraising partners and donors to ultimately contribute toward a permanent facility.
There’s so much work that goes into the development of a brand new sport, and Khan said the federation is pretty busy on a day-to-day basis. But it’s the hope of a Cayman Olympian at some point in the not too distant future that keeps everyone excited and pulling on their end of the rope.
“It’s the spirit that we have that’s keeping us going,” she said. “We want to see it through until the end goal, and it’s really far off because we’re looking towards the Olympics. That’s probably the goal that’s going to keep us grounded. We come from different places but there’s a sense of unity in the sport.”
For more information, visit www.fencing.ky or email [email protected]
- Two people with swords
- Aim is to score hits
- Winning points are made through the weapon’s contact with an opponent