Like any club the Red Deer Fencing Club (RDFC) sees it’s membership fluctuate year to year.
“This year our membership has been flat,” said club president Norm Wiebe during the provincial championships at the Collicutt Centre Sunday. “I attribute it to the recession and people tightening their belts.
“But it’s that way throughout the province. A lot of clubs have said their membership is flat or declined a bit.”
The RDFC has around 60 active members.
“We’ve had as many as 90, but it varies year-to-year,’ said Wiebe. “There’s other influences that attract the kids. In Olympic years, when we get more coverage, it usually takes off. If they stick around is another matter.”
Still the local club is highly regarded, especially with new coach Petar Toshkov of Bulgaria.
“Our fencers are very happy with the changes we made over the last year, especially with the addition of Petar as head coach,” said Wiebe. “It’s very positive looking ahead.”
The RDFC was fortunate to get the highly regarded coach and athlete.
“The previous coach we had we had high hopes for, but there was some information we received that wasn’t accurate,” continued Wiebe. “The person wasn’t who we expected but Mr. Toshkov came with the highest of credentials.
“He has a vast amount of experience, not only as an athlete, where he attained a ranking of 32nd in the world at one time, but as a coach. We’re talking Olympic level fencer, who became a coach. He coached the highest level of fencers in the United States and coached at the National Sport Academy in Bulgaria, where he coached national level athletes before he decided to move to Canada.
“It was huge for us to get him. It was almost unbelievable that we did. I know I didn’t think it would happen, but we contacted him and it worked out. We also worked hard to make sure we could keep him. He’s fallen in love with the community and will be sticking around for a while. With that in mind I have all kinds of expectations for our fencers.”
The RDFC is strictly for epee competitors.
“We dabbled with sabre a bit, but it was dividing our club,” explained Wiebe. “We knew if we continued with the two we’d have to divide into two clubs, or stay with one weapon and one club. As it is we may have to divide anyway with one portion exclusively for the recreation fencers and the other for the competitive ones.”
Because they only concentrate on epee, the club is one of the highest ranked in the province.
“Our kids have done well and one thing I’m proud of is that when we get together at competition the other clubs use Red Deer as a bench mark for epee performances. Our camps are attended by kids across the province and we have kids from Calgary and Edmonton, who drive here to attend our club. That’s a big commitment.”
The club has a number of outstanding competitors, including Zachary Zanussi and Nathaniel Johnson.,
“Nathaniel is one of our top kids and he should be vying for a national team spot as long as he continues to train and stays healthy,” said Wiebe. “Zach is one of our up and comers. He’s still young (16) and he’s going to be a powerhouse and tough to beat in a couple of years. He’s competing above his age in the open class to gain experience. He’s takes some thumpings, but he’s holding his own.”
The club’s top female competitor — Karis Langvand — has been out for a year with an injury.
“That will dash your hopes quickly,” said Wiebe. “There were all kinds of expectations for her, but when she comes back it will be a slow process to get back to where she was.”
Zanussi competed in three events at the provincials, winning the U17 men’s epee, placing second in the U20 division and 11th in the men’s open, which was won by Toshkov.
Thomas Lyver won the men’s U15 epee title with Dakota Wohl second, Devyn Hurry sixth, Cole Adam seventh, Riley Norman ninth and Trent Antonio 11th.
Johnson was seventh in the U20 division and 10th in men’s open. Jacob Sysak took ninth in the U20 and 16th in the open.
Riley Norman won the U13 mixed epee with Joshua Ballantyne second, Chelsea Antonio sixth. Derek Mildenstein ninth, Eric Schultz 10th and Evan Schultz 12th.
Adam was ninth, Wohl 11th and Lyver 14th in the U17 class.
Karren Lyver tied for third in the women’s open epee with Greer McIvor third in the women’s U15 division and 10th in the U17.
Meagan McIvor was third in the U17 and sixth in the U20. Emily Caine was seventh and Chelsea Butler ninth in the U20 women’s division.Butler was also 13th in the U17.
David Coates was third in the veteran men’s category.