RIO DE JANEIRO (April 21) – In a slight twist on an old song, fencing and passion were the fashion at the Copacabana on Wednesday and Thursday, as Cariocas from all walks of life made first contact with the sport on Rio’s iconic beach.
The two-day “Rio Loves Fencing!” demonstration event, supported by the International Fencing Federation and the Brazilian Fencing Confederation, was part of a promotional drive ahead of this summer’s Olympic, with fencing officials keen to leave a tangible legacy behind after the Games.
“We were the talk of the Copacabana,” said Mirani Fernandes, service manager for fencing at Rio 2016 who oversaw the project.
“This was really our goal. To get people involved in fencing, talking about fencing, excited about fencing.”
Picking up an imitation sword for the first time, dozens of kids - some as young as four – stabbed at balloons and wrote their names on white boards as pumping music blared out across the venue.
With shelter from the ferocious sun provided by shining white canopies, top Brazilian fencers including Ana Beatriz Bulcão, the country’s No. 3 foilist, gave demonstrations kitted out in full fencing whites.
At the adjacent fencing clinic, teams of five children each faced off one by one. Parents jostled for the best position to film with their smartphones.
“To be honest, I didn’t really know anything about fencing,” said curly-locked Amanda, a 13-year-old local schoolgirl who stumbled upon the event during a stroll along the beach with her parents.
“I tried it, and I got really nervous. It’s harder than it looks, especially when you put on the mask. But once you actually get a touch, it’s addictive. I will definitely be watching fencing at the Olympics,” she added.
In a spontaneous initiative, a class of six-year-old kids went out onto the beach to take a fencing lesson from Karim Bashir, the FIE and Olympic fencing commentator who will be narrating for this week’s test event and the Games, come August.
“It’s surreal,” he said. “We’re on the Copacabana in Rio, a world of football and volleyball, and we just start fencing. The reaction from the sunbathers was great, and the kids had the time of their lives.”
The second day of ‘Rio Loves Fencing!’ coincided with Tiradentes’ Day, a public holiday in Brazil, leading to great numbers of locals attending the event.
The event marks the start of a week of fencing in Rio, where the official Olympic test event begins at the Carioca Arena 3.
The test event is comprised of the Rio stage of the Fencing Grand Prix in epee, on April 23-24, and also the World Championships for men’s team sabre and women’s team foil, on April 26-27.
“Rio Loves Fencing!” also brought the curtain down on a special International Fencing Federation initiative to give thousands of schoolchildren in Rio the chance to discover fencing will be nearing its end.
The two-month Fencing School program visited nearly 40 schools and communities in a variety of the city’s barrios.
See more photos here.
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