The sport of fencing will make a return to the territory thanks to a former member of the Canadian National Fencing Team.
Scott Dudiak, who many Yukoners may know from his day job as the program coordinator for Zero Waste Yukon, is the coach behind the newly-established Midnight Sun Fencing Club, which will offer its first Learn to Fence class in the new year.
Dudiak was in fencing for 20 years, including his time on the national team, before moving to Whitehorse in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Without a fencing community in place in Whitehorse, Dudiak has worked to create the new fencing club that is now registered with the British Columbia Fencing Association.
“Starting a kids’ fencing class seemed like a great way to give something back,” he said in a Dec. 22 interview.
The first learn-to-fence class will be for ages 11 to 14. It will be held Wednesday’s at the Heart of Riverdale from 6:15 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. beginning Jan. 12 and ending March 30, with no class Feb. 23. COVID-19 vaccination in compliance with Sport Yukon requirements will be required for participants.
Dudiak said the first class will be small with 12 spots available.
“It kind of has to be a smaller class,” he said.
As he explained, given that this is the first class and with COVID-19 restrictions it was important to keep numbers small. It means that if restrictions change the class is better able to adapt, he said.
So far it seems the community is keen. Word of mouth and the club’s new Facebook page have prompted a number of prospective families to reach out for more details about the class.
Dudiak said he was pleased to receive a $5,500 City of Whitehorse recreation grant to purchase new equipment that will be available to the 12 students in the first class.
As he explained, getting equipment can be a challenge for those starting out in the sport and this will allow those interested to learn the basics without having to purchase equipment.
Along with the weapon (which can be an épée, foil or sabre depending on the competition), equipment includes a jacket, mask, gloves and underarm protection.
Dudiak got his start in the sport tagging along to his older brothers’ fencing competitions, eventually taking it up himself.
As he continued to train over the years he found fencing to be a sport that combines both agility and strategy.
“You do need to be strong enough, you need to be fast enough,” he said of the physical abilities that are needed along with the strategy elements
He added that fencing blends elements of other sports.
Dudiak also described itas a sport that is often misunderstood, noting it is not the same as medieval sword fighting.
Fencing involves using lightweight, more flexible weapons for attack and defense with athletes scoring points for hits. In competition, the first fencer to reach 15 points is deemed the winner.
Fencing has been part of the modern Olympics since the first Games were held in Athens in 1896.
In Whitehorse, Dudiak said there had been a fencing club in the early 2000s.
When he was looking into the city’s history with fencing, he was able to connect with a coach from the former club who will be joining him to coach Midnight Sun Fencing’s Learn-to-Fence class in January.
As for where he’d like to see the club go in the future, he said right now he is focused on getting the first class going and seeing what the interest is in the Whitehorse community.
“This is day one,” he said, noting that if interest is strong, more classes with other age groups may be developed.
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