Besides putting their kids in domestic competitions and training camps, Chinese parents are looking for overseas expertise in honing swordsmanship skills. (Photo: China Daily)
It's boom time for Chinese kids reaping the many benefits of the Olympic sport, as He Qi reports in Shanghai.
Yang Peilin first picked up fencing in 2016 after his friend recommended that he try the sport. He liked it so much that he decided to let his 11-year-old son, Yang Junran, follow suit.
As it turned out, the boy had a natural flair for swordsmanship. He even went on to win several prizes in competitions.
"We had no idea about the sport when we first started as no one we knew did fencing. As we got to learn more about it over time, my son started to develop a keen interest in it, and the sport has in turn helped him to improve his physical and mental wellbeing," Yang Peilin said.
The fencing classes his son attends consist of physical fitness lessons with other students as well as private one-on-one sessions, some of which are conducted by former national fencers. Yang occasionally sends his son abroad to take part in training sessions during the summer and winter vacations.
Yang said he spends between 60,000($8,815) and 100,000 yuan a year on his son's fencing endeavors which include training fees, equipment and travel costs.
"Fencing has broadened my horizons. Competitive action has also trained me to better overcome difficulties in life," said Yang Junran, who takes part in about 30 competitions every year.
Fencing boasts a rich Olympic history, dating to the first modern Games in Athens in 1896. However, it wasn't until 1955 that the sport took root in China after a Soviet athlete started a course at Beijing Sport University.
Luan Jujie won China's first fencing Olympic gold medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, but recent performances on the global stage have left much to be desired.
At the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, China took home only one silver and one bronze, while a solitary bronze was all that could be managed at the 2018 world championships in Wuxi, Jiangsu province.
However, hopes are high that rising participation will eventually translate to more medals.
The Chinese Fencing Association says its membership totaled around 34,000 in 2018, an increase of 28 percent from the previous year. Nationwide, there were about 300,000 amateur fencers.
The number of registered fencing organizations in the country last year stood at 639, a 60 percent increase over 2017.
Vango Sports is one such club, boasting 18 training centers across the country and a membership of 150,000.