A fraud issue that we’ve heard reported at major competitions is also one that many fencers are afraid to talk about. It’s hard to call out fellow coaches on bad behavior, and it takes a brave person to do it. You might have seen some of these same things happen yourself, but either didn’t know what to do or maybe were too timid to confront the individual.
Luckily, we have a guest poster who isn’t afraid to tackle the tough issues in fencing. Read on to learn more about one of the dark sides of high level fencing competitions that no one is talking about, but that we should all be more aware of.
This opinion piece is offered to us by Coach Yakov Danilenko, head coach and owner of the Medeo Fencing Club. We think that his perspective is an important one to share!
By: Yakov Danilenko
With Summer National Championships and the July Challenge approaching fast, I would like to draw your attention to one important problem that may arise during these major epee tournaments. It’s something that’s happened in the past at least twice at Summer Nationals and the NAC.
I’m here to warn you about fraud on the part of some not-so-honest coaches.
Most of the epee coaches who are working in North America are good, honest, hard-working professionals who love their profession and respect their fellow coaches. Most of them are people for whom the words of honor and dignity are not an empty sound. Unfortunately, among the coaches there are also frankly some fraudsters and deceivers who will not stop at anything for the sake of victory. They are firm in the belief that winning results in competitions should and must be achieved by any means. Those means include tactics like psychological pressure on the referee or aggressive and rude behavior towards the student during the bout. This is usually a violation of the ethical standards and requirements of Safe Sport. Such “coaches” allow themselves to swear, shout, and insult the student during the bout. At times we even see coaches reach to the level of open fraud with the scamming of electronic equipment.
Here are a couple of examples of fraudulent schemes involving the equipment.
- Cord disconnection – The trick is to imperceptibly disconnect the floor cord from the reel on the side of its student during the control check of the weapon by the referee. This happens after their fencer has received a touch in an intense situation during a bout.
- Critical situation – The score is equal, 14:14 in a DE bout (or 44:44 in a team meet). The opponent scores a decisive touch, the audience explodes with a cry of joy and applause for the winner or with regret, they express disappointment with the loser. At this time, the coach of the loser student (or team) pulls the floor cord out of the reel from the side of its student, usually with a foot, and shouts “Check your weapon !!!” The student, suspecting nothing, delivers his blade to the referee for verification. The referee inspects the weapon in accordance with the requirements of the rules of the competition. The ref looks over the inner surface of the bell guard, makes sure that the individual cord is connected to the reel socket, and that the cord holder is in place. But this does not go further, none of the referees check the connection between the floor cord and the reel. After that, the referee presses the button of the tip and states that the blade does not work, the color light does not go off, everyone is watching the referee’s manipulations with a lot of tension. The referee, in accordance with the rules, confiscates a broken blade and annuls the touch given. Fraud plan worked! At this time, the coach-cheater acts as if nothing has happened connects the floor cord back to the reel.The fencer takes a spare blade and the bout continues as usual.
No one would like to be in either of these situations. You can imagine what the fencer feels who has not been given a deserved touch. After such a nervous shock, usually the bout is lost by that fencer who didn’t get to keep their honest touch.
As a rule, such methods are used by unfair coaches who cannot and do not have the ability to win honestly. These are people who don’t respect their colleagues, nor their students, nor the opponents of their students. We should consider them amateurs and naive fools.
If any of you have experienced this kind of fraudulent scheme, with equipment or with a coach who was unfair to their students or yours, please share your experience! Knowing how big the problem is will be a big part of fixing it.
I believe that all coaches who are dedicated to their work should read this post for information and in order to be aware during the competition. We must get rid of such false coaching practices, they make fencing harder for everyone. These coaches who do not stop at anything for the sake of a pyrrhic victory, they have no place in the sport. These people are simply horrible, they are the worst of sport, the worst of any sport. It’s a problem that makes me beyond angry, and there is only one solution – if you see something, say something! Be on the lookout for these behaviors at competition, and tell the officials when you see it.