Fencers Learn “Mañana” in Cuba
The CISM-RMC Fencing group returned this week from their training camp in Cuba. The goal of the camp to was challenge the staff and athletes to deal with the variety of issues that often arise when you travel and compete internationally. This event was in preparation for the World Military Games, which will take place in Brazil in July. The team was definitely handed some challenges the least of which was dealing with the weather. One of the key factors for fencers to deal with is extremes in heat and humidity, which make the fencing uniform very uncomfortable to train and compete in, and also affects the efficacy of the electronic equipment.
The group travelled to Cuba through the company Canada-Cuba Sport and Culture which is based out of Toronto. The company arranges the teams’ flights, accommodations, transportation, cultural/social events and sport exchange with the Cuban athletes and coaches. Prior to departure everything was professional, timely, well organized and on track.
Once in Cuba the team was met by our interpreter, Yannay, who was tri-lingual in English, French and Spanish. This was very helpful and she was terrific throughout the week not only teaching the group the historical and cultural facts about Cuba but also teaching us some Spanish. She was invaluable when it came to coordinating with the Cuban fencing coaches and athletes.
The arrival day and final day were the only days off the group had from training. Otherwise they attended fencing training every day, varying between double and single training sessions. The teams were warmly received by the Cuban coaches and fencers, even though we found out later, they had had no idea we were coming! Luckily the RMC coaches knew two of the Cuban coaches, Eduardo and Lionel, from previous World Cups and Cuban training camps. Their teams were actually training for their National Championships that week and we were fortunate that they welcomed us and included us in their training. The Canadian fencers bouted with the Cuban foil and epee National Teams all week. Unfortunately, their sabre fencers were already competing at Nationals.
Each morning that the Canadian delegation arrived at the National Training Centre in Havana, we would be met with a change in plans. Likewise, our cultural and social schedule seemed to adjust daily as well. The less experienced fencers had to quickly learn the attitude of mañana, (the casual, easy-going approach of it-can-wait-till-tomorrow) and adapt to the constant delays and last minute changes. It was a good learning experience for all. To thank the Cuban coaches and athletes the Canadian delegation took them out for lunch and an afternoon of social exchange on the last training day.
Our evening at the Canadian Ambassadors residence in Havana was clearly a highlight for most of the group. The fencers had the opportunity to mix and mingle with lots of ex-pats from Canada, including former RMC prof Mr. Klepach. It was an opportunity for the team members to practice their diplomatic skills and promote RMC and CISM Fencing. Coach Patricia Howes presented the Canadian Ambassador Mr. Matthew Levin with an RMC print and book, as a thank you and souvenir, of our visit to Havana. The team greatly appreciates the assistance of Kevin Mendioroz, the Canadian Defence Attaché Assistant, in arranging our special visit.
Physiotherapy officer Lt(N) Melanie Matthews-Loughrey enjoyed her first CISM Fencing trip. She was kept busy all week taping ankles, and attending to daily muscle aches and cumulative fatigue, and getting to know the athletes’ needs. The biggest challenge for her was dealing with the lack of cleanliness of the training facility and maintaining hydration and sanitary conditions for treatments. Four members also met with beautiful but dangerous jelly fish but were treated without incident.
Over the course of the week the fencers completed sessions in balance, plyometrics and footwork mobility. They did partner bladework training drills, individual lessons with both the Canadian and Cuban fencing coaches, combative “friendly” matches in both individual and team format fencing at the National Training Centre.
At the hotel the group took advantage of the unique surrounding doing a session in sunrise yoga and water fitness, lead by 2Lt Jackie Power, and Tai Chi lead by OCdt Steven Morris. The coaches led two morning fencing footwork sessions in the sand to demonstrate to the students the importance of balance, stability and core strength.
Overall the camp was a success. The group had to face numerous last minute changes and challenges but were able to adapt and overcome. The mix of sport, cultural and social exchange is an important mix for CISM athletes to embrace. The coaching staff is confident that this experience will definitely positively impact the fencers and contribute to their overall preparation for the World Military Games in Rio. Thank you to all the support staff that assisted in the organizing of this trip both in Kingston and in Ottawa!
Patricia Howes Ch.P.C.
Head Coach CISM Fencing
Head Coach RMC Fencing