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Dubai: It may be an Olympic sport, but fencing has somehow failed to make its mark the UAE. There are several reasons why that is so, but things do look to be changing for the better thanks to the efforts taken to promote the game by MK Fencing Academy based in Dubai.

The academy is making its presence felt at the international level by sending its students to major events who are then putting up fine performances and getting noticed.

“We regularly host events in our academy and our fencers enter local competitions in the UAE during the year. But fencing is a young sport here (as compared to Europe) and we are learning to compete at the highest level,” said President and Head Coach of MKFA, Mihail Kouzev.

Two fencers - Shaan Lalvani and Kiril Kalinov – took part in the Cup of Mayor of Bourgas international fencing event organized by the Bulgarian Fencing Federation in the beautiful seaside town of Bourgas recently.

“It brought together a number of junior fencers from all across Europe. Giving youngsters the opportunity to compete at this level and in this environment is always good for their growth, not only as fencers, but also as competitive individuals.

“This was only our second international event and although our lads did not win any medals, they proved during the qualifying stages that they are able to match some of the far more experienced fencers they faced,” he added.

The boys undergo rigorous training 3-4 times a week under the watchful eyes of Kouzev and coach Dimitar Kestenov. “The ultimate preparation for competition at this level is participation in similar contests. This very valuable exposure enables our young fencers to jump many levels and positions them so much better for the forthcoming competitions they will enter, both locally and internationally,” he said.

Kouzev was confident such regular participation will also help motivate more youngsters to take up the sport and popularise it in the UAE.

“There is great demand for fencing in the UAE, but lack of clubs and academies with experienced coaching staff to meet this demand is affecting the growth.

“Publicity such as this from competitions such as those we enter can only serve to build up more interest and excitement for this riveting sport,” he said.

He, however, lamented the limited options available for youngsters in the UAE. “Today the opportunities are quite limited locally, but we have a grand vision at the MKFA to be a world class and leading fencing academy across the Middle East. If we achieve this, then we can be a driving force in giving opportunities to those young fencers in the region who want to develop into quality international competitors.

“This was just a taster for the boys and both Shaan and Kiril relished the experience greatly. Along with many of our other Elite level juniors, they are looking to participate in at least two other international events in the coming 12 months, as well as the national championships in the UAE and our own academy cups. So we see a good future.”