A fencing club in New Jersey has opened a new program, reportedly the first of its kind in the Northeast, to teach wheelchair fencing to young people with physical disabilities.
The club’s first six fencers have conditions like spina bifida, cerebral palsy and spinal cord injuries. With only 27 wheelchair athletes represented in the United States Fencing Association, club staffers are hopeful that their new athletes could reach national-level competitions and even the Paralympic Games.
Fencing club president George Janto says the sport requires very few modifications to accommodate people with disabilities. Fencing coach Mickey Zeljkovic, a five-time Serbian national fencing champion, says it requires participants to think ahead — “like physical chess.”
Parents say the program brings unexpected benefits to the new duelers. “They have a lot more confidence in themselves, that they can do what other children can do,” said Colleen Mooney, whose 15-year-old son attends weekly. “They may have their own special way of doing it, but they can [do it] like anyone else.”
(New York Times photo)