On (Not) Returning to Competition During the Covid-19 Pandemic

The only thing that has changed since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic is we’ve gotten older and a little bit greyer.

As of October 30, nearly 230,000 Americans are dead. We’re approaching 10 million domestic cases with a dangerous Winter spike expected.

For those fortunate to survive, the virus doesn’t end with contraction. The Mayo Clinic reports that long-term effects include lingering shortness of breath, headache, joint pain, and fatigue. Even in high performance athletes, we are seeing cases of Myocarditis from the disease attacking the heart.

So when I read the Referee Commission’s Return to Sport guidance, I was overcome with an inexplicable sadness, realizing we are a long way away from ever returning American fencing to a state of normalcy. For some, fencing is a sport. For people like me, it’s a way of life, a community, and the single most important part of my life outside of my family.

Reading these guidelines, it hit me: Fencing tournaments aren’t tournaments: they’re super spreader events. We can’t compete in these current circumstances without being a danger to ourselves and a danger to others. We cannot embrace the spirit of fierce competition when even a jovial yell after a touch is a penalty. A referee cannot focus solely on presiding over a fair and safe bout when s/he must equally worry about the face mask compliance of the spectators present in the venue. Even the finest conditioned Fencer will have trouble sustaining him/herself through the rigors of the day when his/her breathing is restricted by the (necessary) face mask.

We’ve been on lockdown for 8 months and there’s a longing to return to normalcy. It’s tiring to be confined to our homes, to miss out on those movies we were excited for, to not be able to gather with our friends and loved ones without preconditions, and of course—not being able to fence.

To quote South Park’s Stan Marsh at the end of the pandemic special:  “…I can’t take these shutdowns anymore, and I’m scared what it’s doing to me…the truth is… I just wanna have fun again. I wanted to see that I could go out in the world and do things that I used to do, but I can’t. I’m not any better, and I don’t care anymore than anyone else…I just want my life back! I just want my life back.”

I just want Fencing back. I know you do too. It’s painful to write this, but Fencing isn’t a part of my life now, and I think it’s a long time away before it ever will be again. No matter what the guidelines say and no matter how your local division sanctions events—prioritize your health, and prioritize the health of those around you as well. We have to do our part to stop any further death and despair brought forth by this pandemic.

I’ll see you when I see you.


2 thoughts on “On (Not) Returning to Competition During the Covid-19 Pandemic

  1. I hate that this is the state of the world, particularly the fencing world. The possibility of bringing Covid-19 to my immune-compromised wife has kept me from teaching or coaching since March and looks to continue for at least another year.

    You’re right, fencing as a group activity, particularly tournaments, have to wait.

  2. I’ve been waiting to make my return to competitive fencing. Canadian Nationals in May was going to be my big return, but covid-19 put that behind. I’ve been waiting 4 years to return to this sport, and considering the referee commission’s report, I feel my return may be postponed indefinitely.

    Hang in there, fencing family, hopefully we will be able to return to our passion in a safe way.

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