Fencing mob mentality

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Prospect club to take sport to the streets

Ron Miles, left, and Mark Kolb fence during an elite fencing class run by the Prospect Fencing Club Aug. 17 at the Prospect Grange. The club will host a fencing flash mob Sept. 6 on Center Street. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Ron Miles, left, and Mark Kolb fence during an elite fencing class run by the Prospect Fencing Club Aug. 17 at the Prospect Grange. The club will host a fencing flash mob Sept. 6 on Center Street. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

PROSPECT — Fencing may be a niche sport for those who like to lunge and parry. Come Labor Day weekend, the Prospect Fencing Club will join fencers around the globe in exposing the world to their niche.

On Sept. 6, flash fencing mobs will take to the streets throughout the world in an initiative launched by the Italian Fencing Federation to promote the sport by flooding the internet with pictures and videos of the flash mobs. In Connecticut, a flash mob will take place right here in Prospect, led by the Prospect Fencing Club.

“Most people have never seen fencing before. Most people don’t know what it’s about. Come on and check it out, see what it’s about. You might be enticed,” said Sandra Marchant, who coaches the Prospect Fencing Club with Bob Rosa.

The flash fencing mob initiative started last year. The flash mob in Connecticut last year was held in Hartford. The event drew about 50 fencers, according to Marchant and Rosa, and the Prospect Fencing Club had the biggest showing of fencers. Subsequently, Marchant was asked if the club wanted to host the flash mob in Prospect this year.

“It’s a huge honor,” said the 44-year-old Prospect resident.

On Sept. 6, fencers from the club, throughout the state and surrounding states will meet on the Prospect Green at 2:30 p.m. The group, which Marchant hopes will be double the size of last year’s mob in Hartford, will march down Center Street at 3 p.m., stop in front of Town Hall and fence.

Marchant wants to raise awareness of fencing and reach children who may not be in to team sports.

“There’s those kids who don’t have that it thing,” she said. “This is that niche sport; get them in there, get them to do something physical, get them to enjoy what’s going on, get them to interact with other people on a different level.”

Marchant said everyone knows about team sports like soccer, baseball and football.

“That’s great, that’s awesome,” she said. “But for those kids that don’t have that, [fencing] is what we’ve got and it’s pretty awesome. It’s fantastic.”

Marchant knows from experience, she grew up playing soccer and softball.

“But it wasn’t quite my thing,” she said. “Fencing is that niche. It’s a nice sport that fills in for the person who’s not in to team sports that does an individual sport and maybe just hasn’t found their thing yet.”

For Marchant, it’s the challenge that attracted her to fencing.

“I love the challenge because every time you step on the strip it’s a whole new bout,” she said. “To try and problem solve while you’re moving and trying to outsmart your opponent is the most fun.”

Marchant first started teaching fencing classes, which are run through the town’s Parks and Recreation Department, in Prospect in the spring of 2008. Classes are currently offered for all levels, starting with children ages 7 to 10, then ascending to beginner, intermediate, advanced and elite classes.

Rosa’s son was in Marchant’s first class back in 2008. Rosa, who first met Marchant when he coached her daughter in youth soccer in Prospect, said his son was interested in fencing so Rosa reached out to Marchant.

Fencing, Rosa said, paid huge dividends for his son, who has Asperger’s syndrome. Rosa said the sport helped his son improve his fine motor skills quite a bit.

Rosa’s son wasn’t the only one that took to fencing. Rosa, 53, of Prospect, was hooked after watching that first class.

“It’s physical chess,” said Rosa about fencing.

Now that he’s in his 50s, Rosa joked fencing is one of the few sports he can participate in without risking major injuries. His love for coaching also plays a pivotal role in why he remains involved with the fencing club.

Fencing quickly took a foothold in Prospect after the classes started in town.

The Prospect Fencing Club was started in the fall of 2008 to give fencers an opportunity to hone their skills. The club, which has members ranging in age from 7 to in their 60s, meets on Saturday mornings at the Prospect Grange for open fencing.

“You’re going to want to do something with the fencing you’ve learned, so then we started the club,” Marchant said.

Fencers must at least go through the beginner and intermediate classes to join the club. Rosa said there are currently about 50 members of the club, but about 100 fencers have come through the program.

Over the years, the Prospect Fencing Club has made a name for itself in state, national and international competitions. Marchant herself is a highly-decorated fencer. She’s earned numerous accolades in events, including a No. 1 ranking last year as the nation’s top female fencer age 40 and over.

“Prospect’s on the map,” Marchant said. “They know who Prospect Fencing Club is. They know who are members are now.”

On a recent muggy Monday evening, about a dozen fencers took part in an elite class at the Grange. Among them was Craig Mitchell.

Mitchell, a 55-year-old Oxford resident, has been a member of the Prospect Fencing Club for four years. He said fencing is a good workout for the body and mind.

“It’s like a mental chess game, they always call fencing, and that’s true,” he said.

Mitchell will be one of the fencers on Center Street Sept. 6. He said he wants to participate to help grow the sport.

“To put fencing more in the public eye and get some get publicity for the program and the sport,” he said.

For more information on the Prospect Fencing Club, visit www.prospectfencingclub.com.