Fencers parry their way forward

The Wits Fencing Club has ended a four-year medal drought by coming home with 6 medals and a third place ranking from the Gauteng Fencing Association (GFA) tournament held in Johannesburg in early August.

Fencers Mikesh Harrilall (gold), Dean Grisillo (silver), Thomas Shamuyarira (bronze) and Wikus Koen (2 silvers in the U20 division and bronze) competed in the field to bring home their winnings.

“The tournament consisted of three categories Epee, Sabre and Foil. Traditionally we do well in the Epee category but weirdly we won medals in the other two. It’s not so bad considering we coach ourselves,” said Thomas Shamuyarira, bronze winner and chairperson of the club.

“The different categories demand different sorts of agility,” said Shamuyarira. “The Epee is for people who are taller and have a longer reach, the Foil is for people who are more agile and the Sabre is for people who are stockier and more powerful. The Sabre is the one most people know about, it’s where you see the fencers jumping with more physical movements.”

Mikesh Harrilall and Dean Grisillo fought each other in the Sabre final which lasted for nine minutes and ended with a score of 15-11. Harrilall is the first fencer to win a gold medal in any event for the club in over 4 or 5 years said Shamuyarira.

Harrilall only started fencing in his second year at Wits.

“My family all plays table tennis, when I joined the table tennis club in first year I watched the fencers across the room. I knew that next year I would do that. They just looked like they were having so much fun,“ Harrilall said.

Harrilall is set to begin his BSc Honours AccSci at Wits next year.

Shamuyarira explains that the hardest part of fencing is keeping fit. It makes it easier to concentrate toward the end of the bout.

“When you are fighting you are watching the sword and the opponent’s body language mostly. It is a mental game and you have to watch out when your opponent fakes a movement, that’s called a feint.”

The objective is to win by points. You have to initiate an attack to get points and make sure you don’t lose your advantage, or else your opponent will win a point by countering,” said Shamuyarira.

At the University Sports South Africa tournament, held in July, Koen also brought home an individual bronze and a team bronze medal (Koen, Thomas Shamuyarira and Alek Gallo). Overall Wits Fencing finished 5th out of 10 clubs competing.

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Published in Wits Vuvuzela 20th edition, 23 August 2012