Peter Allan was an asthmatic child whose condition prevented him from playing youth sports. Today, the 48-year-old is a nationally ranked fencing competitor.
“I got there late but I got here,” said Allan, who works in Viasat Denver’s operations engineering systems department.
Allan is ranked 11th in his class in saber, a distinction he earned competing in the July, 2017 USA Fencing Championship Summer Nationals.
“It feels good,” Allan said, but also a bit surreal. “You look at the score sheet and think, ‘I have a national ranking? How did I do that’?”
Allan started fencing about seven years ago. He felt an almost immediate connection to the sport, and later discovered many other engineers are fencers. Fencing is an individual sport, so the responsibility for doing well rests solely on the participant.
“It’s an introverts’ sport,” he said. “And it’s probably more mental than physical. You have to constantly think about your plan and change your strategy. It keeps you mentally on your toes.”
Fencing began as a form of military training, becoming a sport in the 1400s. It was part of the first modern Olympics Games in Athens in 1896. Despite its rich history, fencing remains outside the mainstream.
Allan thinks that’s in part because it’s not a great spectator sport for those outside fencing circles.
“The rules are hard to understand,” he said. “The action is very subtle, and a lot of people don’t have the patience for that.”
Fencing requires almost constant footwork and upper body movement.
“It’s not a sport you can just master in a year,” Allan said. “When my coach started, he told me, ‘You’re going to be bad for three years’. I think people give up too early on a lot of things. I think there’s some reward for being tenacious.”
Allan has so far participated in six U.S. National fencing events, paying for all his travel and practicing 5-6 times weekly as each competition approaches.
“I have no intention of stopping,” he said. “It’s an ageless sport, and the health benefits are wonderful. It has become a part of my life.”