Fencer, 59, loves physical, mental nature of the sport

FencerKim Lorang practices bladework with fellow veteran fencer Gerry Freedman. Photo by Rebecca Isenhart
Fencer

Kim Lorang strikes a pose before with her national medal before putting on her helmet for fencing practice. Photo by Rebecca Isenhart

By REBECCA ISENHART
Gazette Reporter

NISKAYUNA — When a fencer begins to learn the sport, she usually chooses a weapon early on and sticks with it. There are three choices: foil, epee and sabre. Each weapon has its own personality and comes with its own rules of play.

For 59-year Niskayuna resident Kim Lorang, the clear choice was a sabre.

“If you want slow and deliberate, pick foil [or] epee,” said Lorang, a fine art printer who spends her days perfecting images for artists and photographers. With the foil and epee, only the rounded tip can be used to score a point from an opponent. Two skilled fencers engaged in a bout with these weapons might go 15 minutes without a single score between them. Strategic and intellectual, the game is often compared to chess.

But using a sabre, fencers can stab or slice to gain an edge. The long edge of the blade is fair game against an opponent. Lorang said this reactionary, fast-paced version of the sport is more like checkers. A five-minute bout, ending at 10 points for Lorang’s age category, would almost always take less than five minutes.

One might expect such an intense variety of fencing to appeal to young fencers with energy to spare. An ideal age to enter the sport, Lorang says, is about 8 years old. By that count, she missed the boat by 50 years.

Lorang, who focused on field hockey as a younger athlete, mentioned in passing to her husband that she found fencing interesting. Then she forgot the conversation altogether, so she was surprised when he gifted her lessons in the strategic sport for her 58th birthday.

Many veteran fencers get into the sport because their children take lessons, but Lorang is an exception to this, too. Her three children are all in their 30s, so she was motivated solely by curiosity.

Fencer

Kim Lorang practices bladework with fellow veteran fencer Gerry Freedman. Photo by Rebecca Isenhart

Nearly two years since she got started, Lorang will turn 60 next month and is ranked sixteenth nationwide in her veteran age group. In fencing years, that’s not even nearing retirement age. National qualifiers this year ranged into their 80s.

Older fencers are anything but frail. Lorang dons 12 to 15 pounds of protective gear for bouts. Practices are two hours long at the fencing club she belongs to. Multiple times each week, Mark Dolata’s students face off in a former school gym without air conditioning.

Dolata, who opened his own fencing club in Schenectady eight years ago, is Lorang’s sabre coach — and her peer as a fencer. Dolata is 67 years old.

“I may not be the youngest kid on the block, but I can still move my legs,” he said.

But if his brain stops, he’s done. “Youth will not overcome age and treachery,” he said with a laugh. “Older fencers in their late 40s are still a threat to fencers in their late 20s or early 30s.”

Dolata said Lorang’s ability to join fencing at a mature age illustrates a quality of the sport that he has always loved. “When you are young, you make up with speed and agility, but once you are older, it’s your intellectual capability” that makes a good fencer, he said.

“If I stop thinking, I start losing immediately,” he said.

Lorang shares his affinity for the self-discipline and focus. In fact, she remarked that the deliberateness of fencing is what sets it apart.

“Fencing is not sword fighting,” she said. “What you saw in ‘The Princess Bride’ is sword fighting. They’re all over creation.”

Correction
The July 17 edition of Your Niskayuna incorrectly stated that fencer Kim Lorang is ranked eighth nationally in her age group, Vet60WS. In fact, she finished eighth out of a field of 13 at this year’s Summer Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, on June 23. Nationally, she is 16th on the most recent United States Fencing Association national Vet60WS ranking.

About the Author

Rebecca Isenhart
Rebecca Isenhart is the reporter/writer for Your Niskayuna, presented by the Daily Gazette of Schenectady.

Comments

  1. En Garde says:

    This article needs to be amended by the reporter to reflect the facts; Ms. Lorang is not “ranked 8th nationally in her veteran age group.”

    While she finished 8th in a single Vet60WS event on June 23 at the Summer Nationals in Columbus, OH, she is listed dead last (16th out of 16) on the most recent post-Summer National Vet60WS national ranking list located at the USFA website.

    1. Kim Lorang says:

      Sorry “EnGarde’s” knickers got into a twist over a mis-quote. Had I seen the article before it was published, I would have asked that it been reworded. Yes, it is certainly true that I am listed “dead last” on the national points list – not surprising, as the Summer Nationals were my first national competition – ever. To be on the list at all was a shock. The USFA has created an age-bracketed system that allows folks of all ages to be competitive with their peers. The message that we were trying to convey is that one can start fencing at any age and have a good time (and no, the article was not my idea or the product of an overactive ego).

    2. En Garde says:

      I am surprised you did not contact the reporter after the story was published to ask for a correction, as I did.

      Nevertheless, congratulations for coming in 8th out of 13 at Summer Nationals in Vet60WS.

      Kudos also to the reporter, Ms. Isenhart, for a well-written story.