Fencing makes case for return to practice

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    THE country’s top fencing officials are hoping their discipline will be allowed to resume by government authorities given the unique playing conditions of their sport.

    “There is no skin contact,” Philippine Fencing Association president and Ormoc Mayor Richard Gomez said of the sport that requires fully-suited fencers to use gloves, face shields or masks and other protective gear when they duel.

    “There is even double protection since given the present (COVID-19) situation we require our athletes to cover their mouths with hankies within the fencing masks so they don’t spread saliva,” added the former matinee idol, who won a gold medal in the men’s team epee event of the 2007 Thailand Southeast Asian Games.

    Gomez said national athletes are trying to train and spar at the aisles of their quarters inside the Philippine Sports Complex in Pasig City since the fencing hall within the facility was closed down because the nearby Philsports Arena is being used as a quarantine center for patients of the lethal virus.

    Former Philippine Olympic Committee president Cito Dayrit, Gomez’s predecessor as fencing chief, also stressed that a distinction should be made between “a contact sport and a body contact sport.

    “Unlike basketball, karate and judo, fencing falls in the latter category since our athletes are fully clothed and protected because of our playing conditions,” Dayrit said.

    Dayrit, the Fencing Confederation of Asia president, said that body contact is considered illegal while the athletes attempt to strike each other with their weapons on the piste, the playing platform during competition.

    “We call this French term ‘corp-a-corp’ or body-to-body, which is penalized once committed,” he pointed out.

    Gomez said the PFA has forwarded its guidelines to the Philippine Sports Commission for endorsement to the Inter-Agency Task Force overseeing the pandemic for approval, adding his main concern is how the national athletes could resume their intensive training.

    Pinoy fencers were major contributors to the country’s medal haul in the last Southeast Asian Games, capturing two gold, two silver and seven bronze medals.

    Dayrit said that some countries like South Korea, Hong Kong and Vietnam, which have kept their COVID-19 positive cases low, have allowed their fencers to resume all-out practice.

    “I am aware that Korea sent its fencers to remote provinces outside their big cities so they can train,” he said.