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Suwon Fencing Federation seeks to foster dreams of youth athletes

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : Nov. 24, 2023 - 08:54

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An Jae-cheon(left), president of BK D&C, poses with the top contestants in the elementary school division of the Korea Club Championship – Fencing, that took place Nov.11-12 in this file photo. (Suwon Fencing Association) An Jae-cheon(left), president of BK D&C, poses with the top contestants in the elementary school division of the Korea Club Championship – Fencing, that took place Nov.11-12 in this file photo. (Suwon Fencing Association)

Despite not being the most populous country in Asia, South Korea has won more fencing medals than any other state in Asian Games history, winning 134 to edge out China by two as of 2023.

At the root of such success are efforts to aid growth of young prospects in the sport, such as Suwon Fencing Federation’s Korea Club Championship - Fencing that took place at Aju University in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on Nov. 11-12. The event was attended by some 100 athletes from elementary, middle and high schools across the country, along with participants for the adult division that included college players.

An Jae-cheon, the president of the Suwon Fencing Federation that hosted the championship, expressed his ambition to support young athletes across the country through difficulties that they may face.

"I first started out as the helping hand for the kids who play sports in difficult situations, and now I’m heading the federation," said An, who also runs a local real estate development company BK D&C that deals mostly with residential buildings.

"Suwon Fencing Federation is managing and supporting fencing clubs at two middle schools and two high schools -- Guwoon Middle School, Dongsung Middle School, Suil High School, and Changhyun High School," he said. "The federation is working with the Gyeonggi-do Sports Council to better help young athletes."

Another amateur fencing body affiliated with the federation is Suwon City Fencing Club.

An’s dreams of helping out youngsters stem from his own experience. "When I was young, I had difficulties because of the financial issues, which led to go astray. But I soon saw the errors of my way, and in the process had much help from people around me," he said. "While I was doing volunteer work, an acquaintance of mine -- a member of the fencing association -- suggested that we help the student athletes having difficulties."

Despite having come a long way, An stressed there is still more to be done for the future of South Korean fencing.

"The biggest part can be played by the regional governments and the sports councils. Suwon doesn’t have a college-level or semipro teams, and the support is minuscule despite it being a field where Olympic medals are frequently won," he said. "It’s not a major sport so (the authorities) are not so enthusiastic on support, and the facilities are quite old and needs rebuilding."

Since the city does not have a team beyond the high school level, the Suwon-born athletes are forced to relocate elsewhere after graduation, he pointed out.

An’s goal, he stressed, is to help found a college-level or semiprofessional team affiliated with the Suwon City Government.

"This is a dream I shared with my predecessor, former Suwon Fencing Federation Chief Shin Hong-bae," he said, urging support from regional governments.