Pistes stripe the floor at Utah Sport Fencing Center, allowing coaches Ross Hansen and Kimberly Durtschi plenty of space to teach the fast-paced and discipline-heavy sport. For more than 10 years, they have taught fencers of all ages how to polish attacks and perfect parries until their students can out-fence their own reflections. During lessons, students can choose to learn on all three of the sports weapons: foil, épée, and sabre.
Holden Connolly has always enjoyed making people laugh. As a kid, he was designated as the clown of his family—a family that included 6 siblings and 68 first cousins. Today, Connolly is a college student and strives to become a physician and work with terminally ill children.
In his spare time, though, Connolly anchors a team of costumed heroes and pop-culture icons: Batman, Spider-Man, Darth Vader, Winnie the Pooh, and Sleeping Beauty, just to name a few. These characters are dispatched to parties across the Salt Lake Valley. There, they infuse celebrations with extra shots of wonder, whether it's Connolly behind the mask or one of his talented team members. But these characters conduct more than just formal appearances—they also lead guests through fun activities such as face painting, magic tricks, and tug of war, emphatically carrying out a duty that Connolly began as a child himself.
Sergei Gritsaev taught his first student to swing a saber more than 30 years ago in his native Ukraine. Throughout the course of those three decades, also Sergei progressed and went on to train the country’s national team for the world championships. Now, assisted by two other coaches, he hones Salt Lake City’s finest competitive and recreational swords folk at Utah Swords Academy. There, he teaches his students the art of manipulating fencing’s three classic blades: foil, épée, and saber. No matter the chosen blade, Sergei begins each course of study by focusing on footwork and vocabulary. After students learn to walk the walk and talk the talk, lessons progress to more complex blade techniques, including feints, defenses, and long-legged lunges.
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Reas Shanahan began fencing as a hobby while attending college at Brigham Young University–Idaho. After he graduated, though, he realized that the sport would be a lifelong pursuit rather than a passing interest. At Salt Lake City, he guides students of all ages and experience levels through fencing basics, teaching them how to maneuver a sword with precision or calculate an opponent's next move. With regular practice, students can improve reflexes, tone muscles, or learn to skewer enough shrimp and vegetables for a shish kebab in one jab.
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