A few months ago, I took my children to compete in the Arnold Fencing Classic. At the time, my sole reasoning was that my kids were a bit younger and they felt Y10 tournaments were often “unfair” to them due to the difference in age and skill level. Since Arnold offered a Y8 tournament they were excited to compete on a more fair competitive ground. But after attending the tournament I realized that Arnold had much more to offer than just a Y8 competition. The Arnold Fencing Classic was part of Arnold Sports Festival, which held a wide range of events from bodybuilding to a variety of Olympic sports. In addition to the Y8 tournament, the festival also had RYC and senior open events. As Y8 events are relatively rare and are mostly of a local nature, I was thrilled for my kids to be able to compete here.
One of the best parts about Arnold is that in an event of this size, the kids can really see what it is like to compete. Oftentimes, local fencing events are very small, and even for large fencing tournaments such as nationals, the only people in attendance are parents of the fencers, teammates, and coaches. And these crowds can clear out before the event is even over! At any local tournament, by the final event the crowd can be completely empty and the children are performing without anybody to watch. For this reason Arnold was completely different. Hundreds of thousands of people came to enjoy the event at the convention center and many stopped by to watch the very unusual, and not-so-American sport of fencing. This in particular made the Arnold Fencing Classic totally special.
Beyond just a big crowd and diverse events, there was much more this festival had to offer. The fencing event was almost on par with the spirit of the overall festival, which gave it a different flavor for the kids and for us parents as well.
For example, in the final bout, which even for Y8 was held on a central stage, there was an anchor announcing the bout and its competitors who gave a brief description of each of the contenders. There were also cameras recording the event which really gave it the feeling that it was the real deal. Even for the 8 year olds! The kids got to experience fencing as part of a bigger picture of sports in general, a feeling that is so rare in fencing, as it is a very niche sport compared with most. This feeling of belonging meant so much to them. They honestly felt like they were celebrities being adored by their thousands of fans!
The awards ceremony as well was very impressive. There was a red carpet for the top eight finalists and each of them were given a form to talk about their fencing past, their coaches, clubs, and best results. The announcer spoke to each finalist before the ceremony to learn a bit about them beyond what they wrote on the form. When the ceremony started in front of quite a large crowd (a HUGE one in the eyes of the kids) each kid was called forward with their name and a story about them, and was awarded a medal. Not only that, the whole event was Star Wars themed, with many characters from the movies presented on stage who shook their hands, saluted with light sabers, and gave the kids a wonderful reception. It was truly an unforgettable experience!
If you ever have the chance to bring your young fencer to an event such as this, I highly recommend it. Your child can understand that they are part of a wonderful sport with a long tradition and which is part of many major sporting events, from the Olympic Games to such multisport festivals as Arnold. I believe this will raise the value of fencing in their eyes and motivate them to remain dedicated to the sport, practice more, improve their technique, and challenge themselves to one day become the champion of a major sporting event such as this. Who knows, maybe competing at Arnold may even give them Olympic dreams!