Fencing: A sport with a point

Queen’s team in final month of training before Ontario Championship

The OUA men’s championships begin Feb. 13, while the women’s title race starts Feb. 20.
The OUA men’s championships begin Feb. 13, while the women’s title race starts Feb. 20.
Credit: 
Supplied by Jimmy Wintle

In the eighth year of his fencing career at Queen’s, Captain Jimmy Wintle — weapon in hand — is a force to be reckoned with. 

But after competing for nearly a decade, Wintle may be ready for a whole new sort of force.

“I think if [the team] were given lightsabers, we could definitely hold our own,” he said. 

He said that while stylistically, fencing is more linear and asymmetrical than a lightsaber duel, the team would be up for the challenge. First, however, they face the test of the OUA provincial championships. 

In their final month of practice before vying for the Ontario title, Wintle says the team is gearing up strong. The men’s and women’s competitions book-end the weekends of reading week, respectively. 

While the women’s team is defending a two-year winning streak, the men’s team has fallen short over the past two years after Carleton usurped them from a three-year hold in 2014. 

This year, Wintle says they’ve look to win the title back, and with a new team. 

“Each year we obviously lose a few people, and we gain some new people,” he said. “This year we’ve been really lucky to gain some fantastic fencers who come with lots of experience.”

The majority of the fencing team, however, had never picked up a weapon — any of the three: foil, épée  or sabre — prior to their university careers. 

“There’s definitely people who start fencing when they’re kids … and we have people who just started fencing this year.” 

Speaking to the draw of the sport, Wintle talked about the excitement of swashbuckling sword fights in television shows and movies.  He said that many people, despite never fencing themselves, probably grew up watching similar activities on-screen. 

“If you’ve seen any [movies] like Three Musketeers type stuff, there’s always that allure of fighting with a sword in your hand,” he said.

While sword fighting and fencing are very different pursuits, due to the rules and techniques of the latter, Wintle believes the draw is the same. 

“There is that appeal. You get to hit somebody with a metal blade. Especially for students that are stressed out. Come during exam time! We’ll let you hit somebody,” he said with a laugh. 

Wintle, (centre) is in his eighth year of fencing at Queen’s.

For the newcomers, he said the chance to compete in smaller lead-up competitions prior to the championships is a better learning environment than their four weekly practices. This season has included competitions at Queen’s, Brock, Royal Military College and Carleton. 

“It gives you that opportunity to put everything together into that bout scenario where it really does count and everything just sort of clicks.” 

However, he said that click isn’t always immediate, as was the case with his own first competition where he placed second-last. He later used the defeat to narrow his focus in subsequent training time, and it’s also helped Wintle when it comes to guiding new fencers. 

The sport isn’t difficult to teach, he said, but it takes people a while to understand the rules without previous exposure. 

“It’s using movements that people generally aren’t used to.” 

Teaching someone to move their hands independently of  their feet can take some, time he said. 

But while there’s a lot to learn, Wintle says that the track-record of this season’s competitions have been motivating. 

“There’s a pride that comes with knowing that somebody, who had never fenced before starting at Queen’s, has gone on to medal.” 

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.