Olympic fencers visit Detroit for North American Cup

Connor Muldowney, Special to The News

After a strong showing at the Rio Games, members of the U.S. Olympic fencing team hope to give their sport a boost during the North American Cup this weekend in Detroit.

“It’s not at the top of your mind when you think of Olympic sports,” said Dave Beachnau, executive director of the Detroit Sports Commission, which helped bring the event to Cobo Hall. “(This event) helps further the movement of the Olympic sport of fencing.”

The event runs Friday through Monday at Cobo Hall, with more than 1,800 athletes in all divisions (Division 1, Division II, Cadet and Wheelchair) expected to participate.

“This is an opportunity to come down and watch the Olympic sport of fencing,” USA Fencing senior member services manager Bob Bodor said. “(The sport) is growing and it’s a great time to get involved.”

The Olympic fencing team finished with four medals in Rio for the third-best output in U.S. history: two individual silver and two team bronze.

And watching the athletes in action could have a domino effect in terms of the growth of the sport in Metro Detroit.

“I would love for people to approach me and talk about the Olympics,” 2012 bronze medalist Kelley Hurley said. “I love talking about my (Rio) experiences with people. It’s not every day you get to speak to an Olympian.”

Bodor is spearheading the Celebrate Rio Tour, which has made stops in Houston, San Francisco and Portland, among others, allowing fans to meet the Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

Although Hurley’s parents pushed her into fencing when she was 8-years-old, she believes casual fans may enjoy the sport if they just take it in without worrying about learning the rules.

“My advice would be to just enjoy it,” Hurley said. “For me, I don’t realize how confusing it is for people who haven’t seen it. Just enjoy it.”

Also on the schedule is a hands-on demonstration from 11:30 a.m-1 p.m. Friday at Cadillac Square. It’s an opportunity to learn more about the sport and have a Q&A and autograph session with the athletes.

“I think, like anything, until you see (fencing) in person, it’s hard to get your arms wrapped around the sport,” Bodor said. “It’s a lifetime sport. You can fence when you’re 7-years-old or 97. We just want people to see it and get an idea of what it’s all about.”

Connor Muldowney is a freelance writer

North American Cup

When: Friday-Monday, Cobo Hall, Detroit

Times: 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Admission: Free