Top fencers and parafencers gather to compete in Utah for championship

Apr 26, 2024, 2:31 PM

SALT LAKE CITY – Some of the best fencing and parafencing athletes in the nation are competing for the championship title.

The D1 Nationals are being held at the Salt Palace.

The CEO of USA Fencing, Phil Andrews, described the D1 Nationals as essentially the top end of the sport – like the Super Bowl of the sport – with top fencers in the country competing for the title of national champion.

For some, it is also the next step to qualifying for a spot in the Olympics.

Coming from a military background, Garrett Schoonover said a work colleague introduced him to the sport.

“Never thought about it. Never considered it,” Schoonover said.

Now, just two and a half years later, the Salt Laker has his eyes on earning a coveted spot on the Paralympic fencing team heading to Paris this summer.

“It’s a little mind blowing… There’s a ton of really intelligent people in this sport with a lot of diverse backgrounds,” Schoonover said.

In fencing, there are three weapons used: Epee, Foil, and Sabre.

Ever humble, Schoonover is currently ranked No. 1  in Sabre in parafencing in the country. He is ranked the No. 2 foilist.

When it comes to fencing meeting parafencing, there is as much a mental game as there is physical.

“People jokingly call it a knife fight in a phone booth… Here, we don’t have to worry about footwork, but we are always in striking distance, so you never get a rest,” said Schoonover.

For Andrews, it is inspiring to see a niche sport growing.

“It’s one of the fastest sports on the planet. Especially sabers – super fast – commonly what you will see in films like ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,'” Andrews said.

In Salt Lake, big dreams are coming true.

“This is the actual championship in the U.S.; the highest level of fencing is right here in Salt Lake City this week. But for some, it will mean something more. It will mean a potential qualification to the Olympic or Paralympic Games in Paris,” Andrews said.

Parafencing happens Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with each day focusing on a different weapon.

Tickets are not required to attend the events.

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Top fencers and parafencers gather to compete in Utah for championship