Twins spar to improve fencing skills

Adrenaline coursing through their veins. Sword grasped tightly in their fists. Heart pounding with feelings of excitement and nerves, all they think about is their opponent. This is what happens every time sophomore twins Sophie and Annie Ayala step into the gym to fence. When they moved to the US from Monterrey, Mexico before freshman year, they knew they wanted to try fencing. The girls started the sport last August and immediately loved it.

“We have been interested in fencing since we first saw it on the Olympics,” Annie said. “When we moved the United States we took the opportunity to try it.”

When the girls settled into their new lives in the US, they started their search for a fencing gym.

“When we found Texas Fencing Academy, we loved it,” Annie said. “After looking at other gyms in the area we knew this was the one we wanted to join.”

The girls try to make it to the Texas Fencing Academy at least twice a week to get all their practice in.

“There is usually a lot of traffic to get to the gym,” Sophie said. “But when finally get there and are able to fence it is worth it.”

The girls fight with épée, foil and sabre, which are different types fencing swords. Foil is a light flexible sword that is used to hit the torso. In foil, competitors wear a jacket with metal so that when the tip of the sword hits the torso a light comes on indicating that the opponent has scored. When fencing, épée athletes use a heavier sword that can be used to hit any part of the body with the tip or the side of the weapon. Sabre is a light sword that is designed for cutting and thrusting, and can only be used to hit above the torso.

“I like sabre because I have the most fun with it,” Sophie said. “It involves a lot of strategy and keeps you on your toes.”
Fencers always have to be aware of everything and focus on their competitors. The girls are constantly thinking of all possible scenarios to prevent their opponent from scoring on them.

“Instead of just being a physical sport, it is also very intellectual,” Sophie said. “You can’t just survive with strength and skills; you have to take the rules into account and think of different scenarios.”

Fencing is a fast moving sport that never gives competitors a moment of rest.

“You’re right there in the moment and you don’t know what the other person is going to do and you have to react to that quickly,” Annie said. “Sometimes it goes so fast I don’t even know what to think, I just react.”

Due to the twins’ busy lives, they don’t always get to spend time together. Through fencing they are able to release stress and anger as well as bond with each other.

“Fencing together gives us an opportunity to catch up and talk about our lives,” Sophie said. “We don’t always get that outside of fencing. Whenever we are in a bad mood we go to the gym and fence. It is a great way to relax.”

Sophie and Annie must practice religiously in order to surprise each other when sparring.

“We know each other’s moves,” Annie said. “We make each other better because we constantly have to learn new moves to try to outsmart each other.”

Fencing will always be a passion for Sophie and Annie and they plan to continue in the future.

“I hope I can keep taking on my sister and keep up our rivalry,” Sophie said “Even though I don’t plan on going to the professional level, I love to fence and plan to continue for as long as possible.”

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