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Hongyun, Yuanjing and their daughter Luona arrived on December 20, 1998 to a big welcome by members of the Birmingham Fencing Club! Thanks to Senator Richard Shelby for helping us get our new coaches here as quickly as possible. We also want to thank our sponsors for their help in getting our coaches settled into their new home.
There is no way to exaggerate
the abilities of our coaches. Several people outside the Club have said that
Hongyun and Yuanjing are two of the best coaches in the
Prior to joining the Birmingham Fencing Club, Hongyun Sun was a Chinese National Fencing Team coach (also coach for the Tianjin Fencing Club). As a competitor in foil and epee, she has earned a long list of national and international medals including a 7th individual and a 5th team place in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. Hongyun holds a degree in fencing and has been a coach for over 17 years. Coach Sun is also a highly ranked national referee.
Yuanjing Wang was also a Chinese National Fencing Team coach (also head coach for the Tianjin Fencing Club), and the Hong Kong wheelchair fencing team. As a competitor in foil, he earned a long list of national medals, including Chinese National Foil Champion. He has an advanced degree in fencing and has been a coach for over 25 years. Coach Wang is an internationally rated director. He refereed in the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games, as well as in the 1992 modern pentathlon.
The Birmingham Fencing Club
is just over ten years old. Prior to the arrival of Coach Wang and Coach Sun, we
struggled for four years to build a program without a qualified coach. Then a
friend of Hongyun and Yuanjing (Daniel Xu from
Tournament Information for Parents and Fencers
Your child may or may not want you next to the fencing strip. Some youngsters find it reassuring; most find that they put added pressure upon themselves when performing in front of parents. Some fencers may change their minds about wanting parents around during the course of the tournament; they may or may not remember to be polite when requesting that you leave. Please don't take it personally - let them know you understand and then disappear. Talk with your fencer about what he/she would like before you go to the tournament, but be prepared for changes of mind.
The North American Cup (NAC) events are a series of national competitions organized by the United States Fencing Association (USFA). These are much larger than the typical local or regional tournament, sometimes with 40 fencing strips and thousands of competitors. Competing in a NAC is a privilege, and your coaches take them very seriously. The Birmingham Fencing Club is on the way toward building one of the strongest youth programs in the country. While that is not our primary goal as a club, it is the obvious result when great coaches and dedicated athletes share a love for the sport of fencing. The fact that the USFA recently asked us to host one of only two Regional Youth Circuit tournaments in the Southeast is a recognition of the commitment shared by fencer, parent, coach and teammates.
We also know that not every fencer can win the gold medal or go to the Olympics. National competitions are an arena for helping fencers reach for the limits of their ability, not just to win medals. Just being invited to go means that a fencer has already shown their dedication and skill. National competitions provide a chance to compete against the best in the country, which often bring out the best in a fencer, regardless of where they finish. The Southeast is a relatively weak section of the country, so national competition is even more important to the Birmingham Fencing Club. Competing becomes an important component of their training.
There are seven different age groups for competition. The rules regarding qualification in certain categories is too involved to list here, but the Club and the USFA can help you. Age is determined as of January 1st of the competitive season (August 1st through July 31st).
Veteran (over 40)
Open (over 13)
Junior (under 20 over 13)
Cadet (under 17 over 13)
Youth-14 (under 15 over 11)
Youth-12 (under 13 over 9)
Youth-10 (under 11 over 7)
Once you arrive at the tournament, the fencer must check in. Not a parent, not a sibling, but the fencer. Preferably an hour before the close of registration. The fencer should have ready at check-in his/her confirmation letter which he/she will receive from USFA and their USFA membership card.
Read the Confirmation Letter carefully. The confirmation letter is a separate letter pertaining to the event(s) your child has entered. If you have a receipt of entry, bring this also. If there is a problem with your registration you will have the proper documentation necessary to fix the problem immediately.
Once the fencer has checked in, he/she may not leave the venue.
If the fencer is not at the strip at the start of his/her event, they will be scratched!!! This means they will not be allowed to fence in that event. What this would mean to you, the parent, you have just spent money for nothing.
After they have registered for their events, all competitors must get their equipment checked checked at the armorer table.
MASK (sewn-in bib, must pass 12K punch test)
JACKET (no holes, must close in back or opposite weapon arm)
LAME (if foil or sabre)
KNICKERS (no holes, must close in back or opposite weapon arm, must be overlapped by jacket by at least 4 inches)
GLOVE (no holes, except for body cord. Must cover approximately half your forearm)
LONG SOCKS (white, must reach bottom of your knickers)
OVERGLOVES (for sabre fencers)
MINIMUM two working weapons (epees must pass weight and shim test)
MINIMUM two working body cords (and head cords for sabre fencers)
FENCING BAG (to carry equipment)
TOOL KIT (screwdriver for tip and pommel, spare screws, springs, allen wrench)
BREAST PROTECTOR (for girls)
AT NAC AND CHAMPIONSHIPS EVENTS, fencers must have their name printed on the back of lames, jackets in the case of epee fencers or the back leg of your knickers; Some NAC events have vendors that provide this service but not all. The events that usually have vendors that do this are Junior Olympics, Summer Nationals and some opens or youth events. This may vary depending on the size and location of the NAC.
Mask will be checked for holes, breaks in the mesh, tears in the bib, and bib must be sewn in and conform to regulation size, punch test, and sabre masks will be continuity checked
Two body cords will be tested to make sure they do not exceed 1 ohm. Body cords should be unraveled before presentation to armorer for inspection (check throughout competition to ensure your armory inspection tag stays attached to your body cord. If your inspection tag becomes detached you will have to have it reinspected at armory
Lames will be checked for continuity, tears and bad fasteners
Sabre fencers overgloves and head cords will also be checked for continuity
You need only get your equipment checked once at a tournament (unless tags become detached from body cords). Equipment is tested for safety and to make sure it is in proper working order. Your equipment will be stamped with a special stamp. Equipment purchased from vendors must also be checked by the armorers. You may be able to get your equipment checked before the day you fence. Check your confirmation materials for times.
The director will check all equipment that was subject to inspection by the armorers for the specific tournament's identifying mark at the beginning of each pool or direct elimination bout.
When it says "close of registration at 9 AM", why aren't the kids fencing at 9:02 AM?
A competition must be run to assure fairness and accuracy at every step. When registration is closed a beehive of activity is moving at the bout committee (BC). They must announce the names of those who did not check-in should the athlete be present. You may have heard the announcement, "Fencer XYZ please come to the BC table immediately or you will be scratched". On rare occasion a frantic parent runs up and says they didn't know they had to check in. (Error: READ THE CONFIRMATION MATERIAL).
Then the initial seeding (minus the withdrawals) gets re-calculated and posted. Fencers have five minutes to check that it is accurate (YOU AND YOUR ATHLETE SHOULD DOUBLE CHECK IMMEDIATELY). If no problem is found then pools are created. This process takes several variables into consideration: seeding, club, and division affiliation. Every effort is made to minimize conflicts and at least two people check the accuracy of the pools before they are posted. (DOUBLE CHECK THE POOL SHEET IMMEDIATELY). Errors can be rectified most easily BEFORE the competition begins. BE PATIENT: you and your child want fencing to begin but ONLY if there are no problems which may cause fencing to be halted later due to a protest.
Now that the pool sheets are posted and reviewed by the fencers the BC is still humming with strip and director assignments. The problems that occur at this stage may include: a machine/reel/strip is "down", a director has a "club/division conflict" and must be changed, all the fencers don't report to the strip. That is why strips are changed or a fencer's name is announced. (BEWARE THE DREAD BLACK CARD: SHOW UP AT A STRIP PROMPTLY AND DON'T STRAY BETWEEN BOUTS...AND BE SURE TO CAREFULLY CHECK YOUR POOL SHEET BEFORE YOU SIGN) Once all the pools are in the data is entered. There may be considerable differences in how quickly one pool gets finished before another depending on size of pool, quickness of the director, mechanical problems of one sort or another. BE PATIENT.
The results are entered into the computer and the seeding into direct eliminations (DE) is posted. CAREFULLY CHECK the posted pool results that they are accurate to your recollection of your indicators (victories, touches scored versus touches received). If there is a problem the athlete must present himself IMMEDIATELY to the BC where the appropriate pool sheet will be inspected.
After a few minutes have elapsed to allow fencers to have inspected the pool results a DE table is generated and posted. The strip numbers may be posted or announced. (BE ALERT TO ANY ANNOUNCEMENT). Directors are assigned, called to the BC and sent out to strips where the fencer should present himself. Upon completion of the bout the victor takes the signed score sheet to the BC, POLITELY WAITS TO HAND THE SLIP TO THE BC AND ANNOUNCES HIS NAME AND SCORE. This allows an extra check on accuracy. Also the athlete may be asked to take the next bout slip back to his strip. The athlete who tosses the slip at the BC runs the risk of a misplaced slip or inaccurately entered victor. (It is very hectic at the BC and while the athlete knows his own name the BC may not). This system of having the victor announce his name and score repeats itself all the way through until the gold medal is won. At that time, you and your young athlete will return home with a wonderful memory of a fine day of fencing!!!
SEND IN YOUR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP ENTRY
FORM IMMEDIATELY AFTER QUALIFYING OR, IF AN AUTOMATIC QUALIFIER, IMMEDIATELY
Your division should have entry forms at the qualifying tournament, or if not, an entry form will be in the next USFA newsletter. If you qualify for more than one event and plan to fence all qualified events, submit one form with all events listed that you are eligible to compete in. Also, send a self-addressed stamped postcard with your entry form with your child's name and events entered. USFA will send this back to you with an official stamp. This is a backup confirmation in case you don't get an official one from USFA.
RESERVE YOUR HOTEL ROOMS EARLY
As soon as the venue and hotel become known, make your reservations. You can always cancel or make changes, but once the block of rooms is gone, it is very difficult to stay at the host hotel. If your child is traveling alone, check the hotel policy regarding minors checking in with no adult. Try to ensure they stay at the host hotel as travel to and from airport and venue will be much easier for him/her as most transportation is arranged around these venues.
Continuously monitor airfares, many offer brief sales to certain destinations. For JOs, airfares often go down directly after New Year. However, this is a guideline only. Use your own judgment when purchasing airfares. As soon as a fare appears that is within your budget, BOOK IT! Call the Olympic Desk for travel help if necessary. The telephone number is on the back of your child's USFA membership card.
ALWAYS TRAVEL THE DAY BEFORE AND THE DAY
AFTER ALL YOUR EVENTS
Do not try and arrive the day you fence or leave the last day you fence. It is very difficult to anticipate the end time of a tournament so plan your departure for the day after your last event. Don't add stress to the fencer by worrying throughout an event if you will catch your plane.
JOIN AIRLINE AND HOTEL FREQUENT FLYER/STAY
If you are not already a member of frequent flyer and hotel stay programs, JOIN. These miles and points add up and can eventually get you a free ticket and/or hotel stay. Its worth the investment and most are free to join.
CARRY ON ALL EQUIPMENT THAT YOU WEAR