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Large Abroad | Jamaican develops fencing sport overseas

Published:Thursday | December 22, 2016 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
James McBean

Fencing is not a popular sport here in his homeland, but James McBean, founder and president of the Jamaican Fencing Federation in the United States, has been making outstanding strides and is envisioning that there will be a massive development of the activity in Jamaica.

McBean, who was born in Spanish Town, St Catherine, migrated to the US at the age of five and later settled in Connecticut, where he pursued his academics, in addition to tae kwon do and fencing.

However, following the death of his tae kwon do coach, he was introduced to the latter and formed the federation in 2010.

McBean noted that when the federation was formed, having been admitted by the international federation, the overall objective was to select athletes who would represent the country at the Olympic and World Cup games.

He said he is charged with developing the sport by training coaches, in addition to developing infrastructure and bringing in equipment. The president said it is even more critical that young lives will be impacted in a holistic way.

"We have had ups and downs, we missed the Olympic Games for Rio (Brazil) by about five points, (but) we made some substantial gains. We had an athlete who was the first-ever Jamaican to be the Central American and Caribbean champion in 2013," he said.

"The following year, we had the first Pan American champion. We had our first-ever female team to represent us in Scotland. We have had various accomplishments," McBean said.

He added: "The challenge here is two-pronged, however, because the Jamaican diaspora has fencers who are coached and trained abroad and, at the same time, we have to develop those fencers who are in Jamaica and build their coaching capacity."

 

GRATEFUL FOR SPIRIT

 

McBean said he was grateful for the courageous spirit that Jamaica is known for - a trait he said is critical if one is to be successful at fencing.

"It (fencing) is not popular in Jamaica, but Jamaica's competitive spirit is popular. It was no surprise that I took a liking to it. It's simply a love for the sport and, as I grew in it, I was able to see the significant potential that it has. I would love for it to take off in Jamaica given our cultural factor that we are so competitive. I want to see us do very well in the sport," he told The Gleaner.

"What I envision is to have an academy which would become a safe haven for students wanting to pursue secondary and tertiary pursuits. We also want to be able to train coaches in a way that they don't just see the sport as another pastime, but as an avenue to make substantive changes socially and economically."

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com