85 F
Cruz Bay
Sunday, September 25, 2022


Twenty-three persons ranging in age from 8 to 40-plus took part in the 2nd annual summer camp sponsored by The Blades Fencing Club — but word about the sport is going out to virtually every young person in the Virgin Islands.
At the closing ceremonies of the camp on Saturday, July 17, The Blades presented to Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds copies for all of the territory's public school libraries of a book by Peter Westbrook, the most acclaimed U.S. fencer of African descent.
In addition, club president Joyce Bolanos said, The Blades will be donating copies of the book, "Harnessing Anger," to all other school and public libraries in the Virgin Islands.
The contribution has been made possible by a grant from the Peter Gruber Foundation. Gruber is the president of Globalvest Management Corp, an investment services firm with offices on St. Thomas.
Westbrook "was the first American of color to become a world champion fencer, about two decades ago," Bolanos said. He fenced competitively for two decades, retiring after the 1996 Summer Olympics, and started the Peter Westbrook Foundation, which trains young inner-city fencers in New York City.
"He grew up in a New Jersey project," she added, "and by his own admission would probably be dead by now due to violence if he had not found in fencing a sport at which he was adept as well as a channel for harnessing anger into a positive force for personal and collective good."
The book, which should be on library shelves when school resumes this fall, is "secondarily about the sport of competitive fencing," Bolanos added. "It's primarily a motivational testimony for young black males."
That's not to say that fencing is only for males, Bolanos — a former Pan American Games fencer herself — noted. In fact, the Blades camp attracted six females: two adults and four youth fencers. Five members of The Knights Fencing Club on St. Croix came to St. Thomas for the week and were hosted in the homes of Blades members. Three members of The St. John Fencing Club also took part.
Camp director/coach Rudy Volkmann said he saw "a complete change-around" in the fencing techniques of several of the young people with whom he worked. He was of the opinion that some of the youngsters "definitely have the potential to become fine competitive fencers, if they decide that this is what they want to work at doing."
Over and over, Volkmann exhorted camp participants to do two things: "sit down" and " move your hand before you move your foot." The first referred not to taking a seat, but to keeping one's legs bent in anticipation of making a move; the second is the proper way to take the offensive and advance on an opponent.
Along with conducting five days of classes in foil fencing for beginners and those with experience, Volkmann shared ideas with Blades coaches about how to upgrade the local fencing program. He also provided introductory lessons in the use of the heavier epee and sabre blades.
At the concluding event, the beginners demonstrated the sword and stance positions they had learned, and the experienced fencers competed in a mini-tournament. In foil, medalists were Bolanos (gold), Mark Hansen (silver) and H. Drumheller and Jared Etsinger (bronze). In epee, the winners were David Pritchard (gold), Erik Pattison (silver) and Bolanos (bronze).
The Blades will be initiating a new 10-week fencing course for beginners on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the clubhouse behind the Herman E. Moore Golf Course on the University of the Virgin Islands St. Thomas campus. Anyone interested in joining the class is welcome to come out. For further information, call 777- 8708 or 776-4812.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.