Fencing piercing through barriers

Daryn Wood
A GROUP of coaches are striving towards growing the Eastern Cape’s relatively unknown sport of fencing through developing young athletes, especially in the townships.
Former Victoria Park High pupil and top national fencer Jon-Paul Raper, 25, and his mother, Jessica, who is a former national champion and Springbok in modern pentathlon, have big plans to put the sport in the spotlight.
They are currently coaching a group in Missionvale and have roped in Motherwell fencer Zola Hlazi, 22, to help them find and nurture talent in his area.
Walmer township is next on the list, especially as they are hoping to get in more practices at Kings Court in Walmer Heights.
Hlazi is the first black fencer in the Eastern Cape to have competed in interprovincial competitions and a national championship and is the poster boy of fencing development in the province.
The young athlete began fencing a year ago and has competed in five competitions already, which includes bouts against Olympians. He is currently ranked 38th in the country.
“When I started fencing, the sport was not known in the community. Once I spoke to my neighbour about it and he thought I built fences,” Hlazi laughed.
But now he is known around Motherwell as “the fencer”.
Hlazi has come from giving swimming lessons at the Motherwell pool to being developed into a national athlete, Raper said.
“He has been given an opportunity through sport.
“Fencing has so much potential, regardless of your background.”
Hlazi hopes to reach a top 10 national ranking one day and also to be called the South African champion.
The two men are members of the Excelsior EC Fencing club, the only fencing club in Port Elizabeth. It is based at NMMU and is open to anyone from the age of 11.
Raper said they want to focus on development, but building the club and attracting new members is also one of the priorities.
“We want to find new athletes who can take the sport forward. We are also looking to break new ground and make fencing a school and university sport.”
He said it is possible for Eastern Cape fencing to step up to the plate by building awareness and by getting the right support.
Anyone interested in joining the Excelsior EC Fencing club, can contact Jon-Paul on 072-449-9508.

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